RFID Triggers Video Surveillance for Freight Tracking

A German freight forwarder found an innovation solution to its regulatory documentation needs. Every time the bar code label on freight is scanned in the warehouse, an active RFID tag embedded in the bar code reader signals the host application. System software calculates the location and directs a surveillance camera to record the transaction.
Published: June 18, 2007

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 18, 2007—Pfefferkorn Spedition, a freight forwarding company headquartered in Germany, uses active RFID tags to signal its video surveillance system to record when goods are moved in its warehouse. The application may also signal a growing trend for RFID use in Europe.

Active WiFi RTLS tags from AeroScout are embedded in the handheld bar code scanning terminals Pfefferkorn uses in its warehouse. When the bar code label on freight is scanned to record a move, the RTLS tag sends a signal over the legacy WiFi network to the video surveillance system. System software quickly calculates the tag location and directs an appropriate camera to record the activity occurring there. Shipment information from the bar code scan is recorded with the transaction location, with a marker to enable easy retrieval of the video record.

“This application is definitely emerging in Europe. Companies are required to keep video records of goods, and the regulations are becoming increasingly stringent, especially in Germany,” Andris Berzins told RFID Update. Berzins is managing director of the EMEA region, which teamed with Deutsche Industrie Video System GmbH (DIVIS), a provider of video surveillance systems for logistics, to develop the solution for Pfefferkorn.

Aside from the convergence of technologies, the application is also noteworthy because active RFID tags are not applied to the packages being tracked, but instead to the bar code readers used to identify them. This approach enables Pfefferkorn to avoid the tremendous expense of purchasing and applying tags for the thousands of packages it handles each month.

“The tag-on-reader approach makes sense in this environment and we have seen it used in other applications,” said Berzins. “Applying an asset tag to every single package would not be cost effective.”

Pfefferkorn did not disclose its business case details, but Berzins said the application is easily cost justifiable because it significantly reduces the labor required to comply with the European video tracking regulation.

“Putting cameras all over a warehouse creates terabytes of data to be stored. When companies need to see a video record of when a package moved or how it was handled, they need to find four or five seconds of footage.” he said. “Every single search literally can take days to complete. It would not take too many searches before a warehouse needed a full-time staff member for it. The business case is very clear.”

Berzins noted there are thousands of warehouses in Germany and throughout Europe that could benefit from the application.

Earlier this year, Sony Europe reported that it attained strong return on investment from a similar application installed at a warehouse in the Netherlands that combined passive RFID with video (see Sony Europe Finds ROI with RFID Deployment).

Read the announcement from AeroScout