Using RFID Tags to Improve IT Asset Management

Keeping track of high value or difficult to locate assets represents a huge challenge to a variety of industries and Information Technology is not immune.  Locating servers, laptops, blades, storage, etc. can be time consuming and costly.  Our guest blogger, Jackie Luo, CEO of Intelleflex partner E-ISG Asset Intelligence provides perspectives on how RFID can help.  Take it away Jackie….

Managing Your IT Assets Can Be Made Simpler with RFID

Managing Your IT Assets Can Be Made Simpler with RFID

 

RFID-enabling data centers are on the way to becoming a $1 billion business. A new survey released by Frost & Sullivan says that the RFID data center market was worth $96.3 million last year, and will grow to $953 million in 2017. The declining cost and increasing performance of RFID tags are coming at the time when IT hardware asset tracking is facing significant challenges from all fronts. That’s why this represents a perfect opportunity for the RFID technology to expand its scale.

There are several forces that challenge the task of accurately tracking IT hardware assets in an enterprise:

  • The shortened lifecycle of computing devices due to more frequent upgrades. The shortened lifecycle applies to not only the individual computing devices such as laptops and mobile phones, but also servers and other hardware equipment in data centers.
  • The security risks posed by unrecognized devices accessing the network. These could be devices brought by individual departments that haven’t made it into the asset registry. They could be devices that have been brought to work by employees (Bring Your Own Devices).
  • The regulatory requirements for IT departments to maintain accurate count of machines that have access to corporate data such as Sarbanes Oxley. There are more requirements for specific industries like financial services, government and government contractors, and healthcare.

To overcome the challenge of maintaining an accurate count of IT hardware inventory, IT departments need to find a cost effective way to conduct more frequent inventory audits. For the IT department, inventory audits have always been a big hassle, if not a disruptive task. They need to send out emails asking people to report their devices. They need to send out people to secured data rooms to monitor the manual inventory audit, which usually takes weeks to complete because IT departments are always short staffed. The servers and blades in data rooms are hard to tag because of their shapes. The serial numbers are hardly visible.

RFID tags and readers can now solve this problem cost effectively. There are passive RFID tags, such as Battery Assisted Passive tags (BAP), which cost less than active tags but have longer reading range. Their performance is more reliable around metal objects like racks and servers. With these battery assisted passive RFID tags, one can use an RFID reader to finish inventorying a data room in a couple of hours instead of a few weeks. More importantly, the process is not disruptive to a normal work day, so IT departments can perform an audit more frequently. IT departments can also tag the individual devices with these types of RFID tags. Similarly, they can also try to perform spot inventory auditing more frequently. They may not capture all the individual devices, but they will add more interim location data of these devices to the asset history.

There is still a lot of myth associated with RFID. Fortunately, most of the assumptions about the cost and performance of RFID tags are inaccurate. For IT departments, it’s time to evaluate RFID-based solutions and consider taking advantages of the technology. For more information, you can download a recently published white paper Why has the development in RFID technology made asset management more urgent?

Jackie Luo – CEO
E-ISG Asset Intelligence

Jackie Luo, CEO, E-ISG Asset Intelligence

Jackie Luo, CEO, E-ISG Asset Intelligence

 

 

 

 

E-ISG Asset Intelligence provides IT asset management solutions that track the lifecycle information of IT hardware and software. Their solutions have integrated the Intelleflex Cloud based ZEST® Data Services, and can therefore connect to RFID readers out of box. You can reach Jackie at jackie.luo@e-isg.com

Asset Management vs. Asset Tracking…the View from E-ISG

Today I welcome guest blogger Jackie Luo, Chief Executive Officer of E-ISG Asset Intelligence, an Intelleflex partner that provides an enterprise asset management software solution for mid-sized enterprises and government agencies.  Jackie has a range of experiences in the mobile and enterprise software industries and believes that the power of mobility and cloud-based application will bring much more efficient asset management solution to enterprises. I trust you’ll find her perspectives insightful and you can email her by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing, Intelleflex

Luo_Profile

Jackie Luo

CEO of E-ISG Asset Intelligence

I often hear people mix these two terms “asset tracking” and “asset management”.  It’s easy to mix them because they are both associated with assets, and require some form of barcodes, tracking devices and some kind of software to collect and display data. But they are different, in scope, goals, and business processes.

  • Scope: Asset tracking typically covers a subset of assets, while asset management should cover enterprise wide physical and IT assets, including buildings, equipment, IT hardware and software, consumables and capitalized assets. For example, you need to track all your vehicles, so you put GPS devices in your vehicle to track their location, driving history, etc. You need to track a particular batch of shipment in order to know the condition during shipment, so you put some sensor devices on these shipments to monitor the temperature, humidity, etc.   Enterprise asset management is much broader in scope. It seeks visibility to the physical and fiscal information of all your assets, e.g. where they are, who have them, purchase cost, replacement value, maintenance schedule,  so you can make the best decision on how to use your assets. In the context of enterprise wide assets, items for asset tracking, like vehicles or some high value and mobile equipment are items in sub categories in the entire enterprise asset registry.
  • Business processes: Enterprise asset management is a key process in a business operation. It touches cross functional departments like procurement, facilities management, IT services, and financial reporting. The business process for asset tracking is most likely simpler, and touches fewer cross functional points.  Consequently, the effectiveness in managing enterprise assets has C-level visibility, while the responsibility for asset tracking most likely resides in individual departments.
  • Goals: The goals for asset management include 1) reduce the spend on equipment purchases, 2) optimize the life-cycle costs of equipment 3) institute accountability of assets, and 4) reduce the risks in asset management (e.g. theft, improper disposal of assets, failure in compliance). The goals for asset tracking are often specific to the category of assets, for example, on time shipment, utilization rates of a piece of equipment.

Although asset tracking and asset management are different, there is no reason why the tools to support these business processes should be separate. Since enterprise asset management addresses the entire portfolio of assets, a company’s enterprise asset management solutions should also be able to address specific asset tracking needs.  What does it means for the end users? They don’t have to switch applications. They don’t need to enter data twice. They don’t have to import and export data between applications. These should be the basic requirements in an asset management solution. Moreover, with the increasing use of RFID tags in asset tracking, an asset management software solution should have built in support to RFID tag reading workflow. This will eliminate expensive RFID middleware or customization.  You can learn more about E-ISG’s solution here.

What Happened to Our _____? It Was Here a Minute Ago.

If you work at a hospital, factory or simply in an office, you may have noticed that things tend to sometimes walk off on their own. This is bad enough if you lose a pen or notebook but imagine the cost when it’s high-value assets like computers or medical equipment that is misplaced around your facility, or worse – disappearing out your doors.

According to Intelleflex partner Supply Insight, tracking and managing assets presents four challenges:

  • Accountability: Who has or took the asset?
  • Labor: Let me go look for it. It costs time and money to look for a missing asset.
  • Shrinkage: I can’t find it so I’ll order a new one.
  • Hoarding: I don’t want to have this happen again so I’ll order more or just hide the ones I have so others can’t use them.

Using Intelleflex XC3 Technology and Supply Insights rPlatform™ suite of solutions, the company is able to help its customers more efficiently monitor and manage their valuable (and all too often highly mobile) assets.  The result is reduced labor and purchasing costs, better asset utilization and a more informed management team.

You can learn more about this by clicking here to view a SlideShare presentation on their solution suite.

View the Supply Insight SlideShare

Here’s hoping your assets are safe for the holidays!

 

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Should Be An Interesting Webinar on Equipment Management

Certainly the main speaker’s book title is interesting and provocative enough!  Intelleflex partner E-ISG is hosting a webinar featuring Al Hardy, the author of “Covering Your Asset by Exposing the Butt-Ugly Truth” at 12 p.m EST on Wednesday, November 14.  (You can register for the webinar by clicking here.)  E-ISG offers a variety of innovative solutions for tracking and managing equipment and other assets.

Author and industry expert Al Hardy will be featured on the E-ISG webinar

On this webinar, Mr. Hardy will discuss:

What are the key mistakes in each stage of the asset management life cycle?

  • Lease vs. buy
  • Compliance and data capture for maintaining asset
  • Why asset utilization information is important
  • Value assessment when disposing assets

Why do organizations make these mistakes?

  • Why do companies fail to maintain physical and fiscal visibility to their assets?
  • Do companies have the information to maintain their equipment?
  • Do companies track how equipment is utilized
  • Do companies know the cost of disposal?

How to define the requirements for a solution?

  • How to get buy-ins?
  • How to write RFPs?

Given the continued focus on business process improvement and the ability to properly and effectively manage equipment and assets to maximize utilization and reduce loss, this webinar should provide a great opportunity to get valuable insights from an industry expert with 22 years of experience in asset management and maintenance for the healthcare industry.

I hope you’re able to join the webinar.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Where Am I? (RTLS and MicroZoning)

We get a lot of inquiries from people asking if we can do real-time location systems (RTLS).  According to our pals at Wikipedia:

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) are used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real time, usually within a building or other contained area. Wireless RTLS tags are attached to objects or worn by people, and in most RTLS, fixed reference points receive wireless signals from tags to determine their location.[1] Examples of real-time locating systems include tracking automobiles through an assembly line, locating pallets of merchandise in a warehouse, or finding medical equipment in a hospital.

The physical layer of RTLS technology is usually some form of radio frequency (RF) communication, but some systems use optical (usually infrared) or acoustic (usually ultrasound) technology instead of or in addition to RF. Tags and fixed reference points can be transmitters, receivers, or both, resulting in numerous possible technology combinations.

RTLS are a form of local positioning system, and do not usually refer to GPS, mobile phone tracking, or systems that use only passive RFID tracking. Location information usually does not include speed, direction, or spatial orientation.

Do you know where I am?

Why are they calling?

Generally, the people asking about this are trying to develop some sort of a personnel security application, often related to mustering in the event of a disaster or evacuation.  They’re looking for a system that tells them exactly where people are located in a building and/or if they’ve left. Some also want to track valuable assets.

We tell them that Intelleflex doesn’t provide RTLS systems but we do provide something we call “MicroZoning” and explain that, by using the range and performance capabilities of our battery assisted passive RFID, we can tell you that people are in a particular zone or area, though not precisely where they are.  They say they wanted RTLS and  thank us for our candidness and we end the conversation.

Often, sometimes within an hour or sometimes within a few days, they call us back and say something like “Wow, I had no idea RTLS systems were so EXPENSIVE.  Can you tell me about MicroZoning again?”

Simply put, by using RFID to triangulate where badges are located, we can determine where a person or object is located within a few feet.  (The size of the area is determined by the number of antennas used…the more antennas used, the smaller the zone.)  So, for example, you could determine that I’m in my office but you couldn’t tell if I was sitting at my desk or if I was standing near the door (or hiding under my desk!).  But, for many applications, that’s more than adequate.  If you’re evacuating a building, you may just want to know that all of the rooms are vacant.  With MicroZoning, you may be able to determine that far more cost-effectively than by using an RTLS system.

There’s another couple of benefits.  With RFID, you can set up entry/exit monitors to track people as they come and go out of the building.  For evacuations, you can note that 50 people may have entered the building but only 48 have left.  You can also set up RFID readers at mustering points to easily identify who’s in the assembly area.

So, if you’re in the market for security or mustering applications and find RTLS just too costly, you may want to consider MicroZoning as a more cost-effective alternative.  You can learn more about our solutions here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

…And Speaking of Intelligent Pallets (and RTIs)…

Maybe you don’t think about pallets that often.  If you’re not in the logistics industry, the word “pallet” probably conjures up images of beaten up pieces of wood on a loading dock behind a store. But, if you’re into logistics, there’s a whole lot more going on.

A recent article on PalletEnterprise.comspeaks about trends in the logistics of the pallet industry. The author, Rick LeBlanc, discusses a number of logistics challenges and opportunities for 2012 including palletization in emerging nations, unit load tracking, supply chain optimization, sustainability, and sanitation concerns. One thing in particular, however, struck me: the increasing need for intelligent pallets – and I would add into that returnable transport items (RTIs) such as totes, bins and containers as well.

Will Wooden Pallets Go the Route of the Dinosaur?

LeBlanc writes: With global supply chains, the importance of accurately projecting demand, and coordinating it with supply continues to be of huge importance, as is flexibility. With respect to flexibility of managing inventory en route, tracking and monitoring technology will play an increasingly important role. [Italicized references are my added emphasis.] Whether or not such technology will be increasingly embedded in pallets or just attached or in the vicinity of unit loads, is yet to be determined.

Another point that LeBlanc raises relates to risks and costs associated with bioterrorism, cargo theft, and food safety. He cites a recent presentation by Dr. Paul Singh, professor emeritus of Michigan State University, and Michael McCartney, principal of QLM Consulting, at the United Fresh produce conference in Dallas about the Food Safety Act and the FDA’s ability to enforce the law. Referencing the United Fresh presentation LeBlanc writes: Depending upon how aggressive the enforcement, we should see an escalating emphasis on proper handling of pallets to keep them clean and dry, as well as more tracking technology to monitor not only the location of the load, but also tampering, load temperature, vibration and other information that could influence load condition. Whether this technology will be embedded in the pallet or somewhere else in the vicinity, Singh and McCartney are suggesting a future where a trailer load of fresh produce will be a high tech mobile warehouse.

LeBlanc then summarizes that the logistics industry will be looking for “safer pallets, greener pallets and possibly smarter pallets”.

I agree.  We’re seeing increasing demand for smarter, intelligent pallets and RTIs.  Producers, retailers and food service providers in particular are looking to intelligent RTIs that include the ability to locate where the RTI is as well as report on the condition of the cargo – specifically the temperature.  RTIs with embedded condition monitoring tags built in can significantly enhance food safety and quality by capturing and sharing both the temperature and waypoint information providing the ability to ensure the product has been handled correctly in the supply chain as well as providing an electronic traceability record. These capabilities, combined with advances in RTIs, could help to revolutionize logistics and enable a more intelligent supply chain.  You can learn about how XC3 Technology can help by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

What’s Really Exciting About Today?

RFID Journal Live!, the industry’s largest tradeshow kicks off today in Orlando. What’s exciting is that it has the potential to be something far more than just another RFID show because of new capabilities that are being made available to the market. RFID is no longer tied to speeds and feeds but now is demonstrating real business benefits. As someone whose background is in enterprise applications, I see the transition to business-enabling solutions as significant.

At last year’s show, Intelleflex featured our new generation of XC3 Technology readers and tags. This award winning technology brought significant business benefits to a number of industries, including the cold chain for food and pharmaceuticals. Case studies, pilot programs and partner adoption over the past 12 months have helped to validate the value proposition for our solutions.

Introducing ZEST and the CMR-6100

But, what’s really exciting is that, this year, we’re taking it a step further with the introduction of our CMR-6100 Cellular Reader and ZEST™ Data Services. The CMR-6100 is the first fully integrated cellular-enabled, GPS-equipped multi-protocol RFID reader with support for the ISO Class 3 battery assisted passive and EPCglobal C1G2 passive standards. Intelleflex ZEST Data Services, a cloud-based repository for aggregating, warehousing and sharing information across the supply chain, facilitates on-demand access to actionable data for improved supply chain operations.

The vision behind these new offerings is to deliver true business value by providing customers with timely access to information that improves the delivered freshness for food, ensure efficacy and quality of pharmaceuticals, and optimizes asset utilization. With increasing pressure on the bottom line, new industry regulations and tighter competition, companies are looking for solutions that make it easier to do business. By delivering new solutions to capture Actionable Data – information that people can use on-demand for real-time decision making – and simplifying how it is shared across the supply chain using a cloud-based model, we believe that Intelleflex, along with our partners, can help improve how companies do business. If you’re at RFID Journal Live!, please come by booth 205 and take a look.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Modex: In the Rear View Mirror

Last week Intelleflex was at the Modex 2012 exhibition in Atlanta.  Modex is focused on supply chain and materials handling.  We had a modest booth in the technology section of the massive Atlanta World Congress Convention Center. As this was the inaugural Modex event, we didn’t know what to expect.

We were very pleasantly surprised.

We were very busy!

Our theme was Actionable Data and focused on three key benefits:

• Monitoring product temperature and condition for proactive decision making
• Optimizing inventory management ( FEFO +)
• Avoiding waste and shrink for rapid ROI

I was amazed with how many people from retail grocers, third party logistics providers, end user customers and integrators stopped by.  The theme resonated. People need to better understand the condition and status of their products and assets as they move through the supply chain.  The conversations were interesting as booth visitors described their challenges and asked how Intelleflex could help.

Intelleflex at Modex 2012

Going into the show, I wasn’t sure if it would be one we would pursue again but, not only will we be back at Modex 2014, we’ll be at ProMat 2013.  (The shows rotate.)

I also want to give a shout out to AIM who invited our CEO, Peter Mehring, to speak to an audience about the benefits of pallet-level temperature monitoring and present our blackberry case study.

Peter Mehring Speaks at Modex

If you’d like more information about how Intelleflex can help you address challenges with your supply chain or asset tracking application, please click here or email me.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Get Your Actionable Data Here

Modex is a huge supply chain and logistics event being held in Atlanta from February 6-9.  You’ll find most everything you could imagine relating to a supply chain at this exhibition from automated forklifts to packaging machinery and software and hardware solutions. Intelleflex has a small booth on the show floor and we’re meeting with quite a few companies that have need for temperature monitoring and track and trace solutions.

Get Actionable Data at Modex booth 204

It’s always interesting to hear the different problems people are trying to solve. Many had previously thought that in-transit temperature monitoring wasn’t feasible or cost-effective but they’re pleasantly surprised when the come by and see Intelleflex XC3 Technology-powered solutions in action. If you’re in Atlanta for the show, please stop by and say hello.  Or, if you just want to know more about the benefits of Actionable Data, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Back to School? Back to Trade Shows.

Many of us have recently sent our kids off to school and are regularly “encouraging” them to study.  It’s a regular feature of the autumn season.  For those of us in business, this time of year means trying to close Q4 business and a key part of that process are trade shows and conferences.

Intelleflex is participating in a number of events in the coming weeks:

I’ll be at the IQPC and PMA event.  If you’re there, please swing by and say hello and collect your Intelleflex stress tag…it will help you relax while you remind your kids to get their homework done!

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing