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RFID Reins In Saddle Theft

An Australian company is inserting a passive RFID tag into every saddle it makes, to ensure police or ranchers can identify its rightful owner.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 15, 2012In Australia, most members of the livestock trade, such as horse ranchers, are equipped with an RFID reader, thanks to the proliferation of radio frequency identification tags embedded in cattle and horses. Not only do horse owners and handlers carry readers, but so does the police force that works in that industry. So when saddle maker Clint Gollan met Tim Scott, the sales and marketing manager at RFID firm Datamars Australia, at an agriculture trade show held last year in Cloncurry, in the state of Queensland, the duo came up with another way in which the technology could be used: to thwart the theft of the handmade saddles produced by Gollan's company.

Paul Gollan Saddlery, located in Toowoomba, Queensland, is a family-owned business that sells saddles crafted by hand, as well as bridles, horse rugs, whips and other accessories.

Paul Gollan, holding a saddle tree with an embedded passive RFID tag

Handcrafted saddles cost $3,800 or more apiece, and due to their high price, they are at risk for theft. In the event that police seize a stolen saddle, it can be difficult to determine its owner. Although each of his company's saddles bears a metal plate with an engraved unique serial number, Paul Gollan says, these plates can be removed by thieves, making it nearly impossible for police to identify and prove ownership.

"The use of the RFID chips has now made identification of our saddles much easier," Gollan explains. The saddle maker has begun inserting a Datamars T-IP 8010 FDX-B or 30-mm HDX 134-kHz low-frequency (LF) polymer RFID tag, complying with the ISO 11784 standard, into the tree (frame) of every saddle it produces. The tag's unique ID number is then linked to that saddle's serial number in Paul Gollan Saddlery's database. Using a tag encased in polymer, Scott says, ensures the tag will not be destroyed by the wear that a saddle experiences while on a horse, whereas a glass RFID tag (commonly used for livestock tracking) could become broken under such circumstances.

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