Quickly, the group's IT team realized that the RFID technology could do more than just track pallets of pamphlets and stationery: It could help actively control access to equipment. So the agency is now experimenting with a system to track when equipment is moved from an area, starting with the IT offices in Washington, D.C., that also house loaner equipment. Access to that area is fairly open. Because the doors are often left unlocked, it's not hard for someone to drop by and borrow equipment without formally checking it out. So the group has placed an RFID reader on the door to detect when equipment passes through. The idea is to see how accurate the reader is at such a location. Next, the group will install a motion detector to determine whether the equipment is coming or going, says Matthew Anderson, a programmer in the group. Then, it will tie in the RFID reader's data with the agency's SQL database and an asset management solution from Sunflower Systems running on an Oracle platform to enable real-time tracking of the loaner and IT equipment.
The ultimate goal, Orem says, is to track all equipment in the building and to discover in real time when equipment leaves the building. That will require putting readers at exits and connecting them to the agency's asset management system to verify whether permission was granted to remove the equipment, alerting security staff -- and perhaps even locking the doors automatically -- if not. Orem would also like to track who is taking the equipment by having RFID tags on employees' badges, to make sure the person carrying the equipment is authorized to do so. That means coordinating with the agency's security group, which would need to deploy the RFID tags on employee badges and link its systems to those within the logistics group. In September, the security group agreed to consider doing so.
The agency is also using RFID to regulate access to its fueling center. Until recently, employees had a fuel card they swiped at the pump to dispense the gasohol used in the agency's vehicles. But that system couldn't ensure that the vehicle being fueled belonged to the agency. Also, the agency was getting mileage and other car-status information manually, as employees filled out forms, often with errors, Orem recalls. So the agency has added RFID tags to the fuel pumps' nozzles and a reader to the agency's vehicles. (The RFID reader's sensor is put in the gas tank's collar and is connected by wire to the reader stored in the car's trunk.) When the nozzle is inserted into the tank, the reader validates the pump and then sends a wireless signal to the pump to turn it on. The reader is also connected to the vehicle's computer, which keeps data on mileage and operational status. This data is uploaded at the same time, so the agency gets accurate records of mileage and can detect repair and maintenance needs automatically, Anderson says. The cost, Orem says, is about $200 for each of the fleet's 65 vehicles, a small cost, indeed, when measured against the potential savings.
In this article, we should have said that the Social Security Administration's RFID-based asset management solution uses Sunflower Systems software running on an Oracle platform. InfoWorld regrets the error, which has been corrected.