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

Our First Ever Superbowl Commercial

Today Intelleflex is introducing our first ever Superbowl commercial.  The beauty of it is that we didn’t have to pay CBS almost $4 million to air it and the actual production costs were very low ($0).  All you have to do is click on this link sometime during Sunday’s game between our hometown San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens and, voila!, Superbowl commercial.  In about 30 seconds, you can learn what the new 49ers stadium (being constructed about a mile from our office here in Santa Clara) and Intelleflex XC3 Technology RFID tags and readers have in common.  (OK, you can watch it ahead of time too if you want.)

Watch Our First Ever Superbowl Commmercial!

Watch Our First Ever Superbowl Commercial!

Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy the game with friends, family and lots of snacks.  And, as a bonus, here’s some Superbowl related trivia.  The top two Superbowl snacks are:

  • Salsas and dips (with chips or fresh veggies of course)
  • Chicken wings

Be sure to practice good food safety and wash your celery and carrot sticks thoroughly and make sure those chicken wings are thoroughly cooked.  Hopefully all of the ingredients were properly managed and temperature monitored along the supply chain!

And, with deference and respect to our friends who are Ravens’ fans, from those of us in Santa Clara: GO NINERS!

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

The Need for Intelligent RTIs

Supply chain optimization has become a way of improving and differentiating your business. It’s no longer just a cost of doing business but a source of competitive advantage as demonstrated by companies like WalMart. Bar coding has been widely employed for this purpose but bar codes have limitations and can only help so much:

  • You have to be able to see the barcodes to read them.
  • Bar codes can’t store actionable data about the condition of the contents such as it’s temperature or transport history.

The critical benefits of actionable data about the condition and location of products are being increasingly recognized across the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for asset tracking. Actionable data enables the intelligent supply chain and delivers the ability to improve operational efficiencies and drive out waste. Research indicates that this data is best captured at the pallet, bin or tote level – the domain of the reusable transport item, or RTI.

An intelligent RTI, or iRTI, is a reusable transport item that is embedded with an RFID tag to collect and capture information about the RTI itself as well as its contents. When integrated into a software system, the iRTI provides important actionable data to help address some of the key challenges in today’s supply chains and provide a rapid ROI. And, by employing RFID, you don’t have to actually see the tag to read it and capture the information on the tag. This simplifies operations and can reduce labor costs.

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Rick LeBlanc, editor of Packaging Revolution’s authored this new white paper on the value of Intelligent RTIs.  It’s a great explanation of the benefits of this new solution.  You can download it here.

 

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

FSMA Makes the Front Page

We’ve been waiting and wondering if the Food Safety Modernization Act was ever going to make it out of the gates.  Now, two years to the day after President Obama signed the FSMA into law, the FDA has announced the release of the proposed rules for the law.  Heck, it even made the front page of our local paper over the weekend!  Those of us in the industry have certainly been aware of the implications of the law but, by and large, the public hasn’t heard much about it. The fact that this is front page news is significant as increased public awareness will also put pressure in the industry to take action.

Front Page News for the FSMA

Front Page News for the FSMA

According to United Fresh, two proposed rules will be released:

The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require food companies—whether they manufacture, process, pack or store food—to put in place better controls to minimize and reduce the risk of contamination.

The Produce Safety rule would require farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fruits and vegetables to follow standards that are aimed at preventing contamination.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said that “The FDA knows that food safety, from farm to fork, requires partnership with industry, consumers, local, state and tribal governments, and our international trading partners. Our proposed rules reflect the input we have received from these stakeholders and we look forward to working with the public as they review the proposed rules.”

The FSMA should motivate the food industry to fundamentally rethink their cold chains.  It’s not a simple feat to move from a reactive methodology that’s been in place for decades to a proactive one but the benefits to consumers – and to the industry – can be immense. It’s important to note that Hamburg specifically mentioned “farm to fork” and “international trading partners”.

Also interesting is commentary (Fresh Plaza and elsewhere) that the expected cost to large farms is estimated by the FDA to be roughly $30,000, and the cost for small farms is expected to reach $13,000. But, when traceability is done in conjunction with temperature monitoring to reduce waste, enough savings can be found to more than pay for the cost of traceability. In effect, the additional revenues by being able to sell more of the produce cover the cost of implementing traceability and then some!

Much has changed in the industry over the years due to globalized and elongated cold chains.  I expect retailer grocers will take the lead on this and begin to mandate electronic temperature and traceability solutions for their suppliers starting in the field, whether that field is in California or Chile.

(You can learn how Intelleflex can help address FSMA requirements here.)

It’s a nice way to start what should be a very interesting – and busy – year.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

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

Cold Chain ≠ Arrested Development

Netflix gave me an idea when they announced they were resurrecting one of my favorite TV shows.  As I had the pleasure of speaking at an Expeditors International seminar last week about temperature monitoring in the health care cold chain, I decided to tie the theme of my presentation to the soon to be continuing perils of the Bluth Family so well chronicled in the show “Arrested Development”.  The foundation for my presentation was that the cold chain of tomorrow is a very different one from today.  There are a number of changes that are dramatically impacting the industry including:

  • The increasing number of off-patent drugs
  • Increase in the volume and value of biologics
  • The shift to using 3PLs
  • Increasing climate instability making summer/winter packaging riskier
  • The disappearance of wide body aircraft on domestic flights limiting use of active refrigerated containers
  • ePedigree, serialization and inference
  • RFID proven safe for biologics

The impact of these changes will require healthcare manufacturers (both for biologics and even medical equipment) to rethink their cold chains. Even when routes are validated and procedures are in place, what can you do to ensure that temperature sensitive products are safe for use when delivered?  To quote a famous American president:

Trust but Verify

Yes.  Trust but verify.  It’s one thing to trust your supply chain but it’s equally critical to verify that the products have been properly handled as they move from manufacturer to the customer.  ISO Class 3 RFID provides this capability.  Because it can be read through containers without opening or unpacking (helping to document authenticity) and provides a complete temperature and way point history, Class 3 RFID tags (like XC3 Technology) make it easier to implement a solution that helps manufacturers and 3PLs to manage – not just monitor – their cold chains.

The health care and pharma cold chain should utilize new technologies to address new cold chain dynamics.  Doing so will prevent “Arrested Development” for the cold chain and, to quote one of the show’s characters, prevent you from “making a huge mistake”.

To view the presentation on SlideShare, please click here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

IQPC 2012 – Showcasing New Solutions for Domestic Cold Chain Logistics

Today marks the kick-off for the general conference and exhibition at IQPC’s annual cold chain conference in Chicago.  Among all pharma events in the USA, this one features exhibits from pretty much anyone who is anyone in the pharmaceutical cold chain.  Leading up to the event, Todd Keefe published an article in M2M Revolution where he cites that the demand for transporting medical and pharmaceutical products is exploding. He then states that there are significant challenges associated with moving time and temperature sensitive cargo in a way that keeps the cold chain intact, and ensures documented quality of delivery.

Ready to go at the Intelleflex Exhibit at IQPC in Chicago

One of those challenges relates to air cargo.  Keefe writes: Pharmaceutical companies and shippers of perishable commodities need same-day service to move their wares around the country. Yet most of the active air transport containers (with compressors and active monitoring devices) are limited to wide-body aircraft, which are almost exclusively used today for international routes.

So, as active refrigeration options from commercial carriers become harder to find (and likely more expensive) as wide body planes like 747s and 767s are shifted purely to international flights, what are the options?

Keefe discusses a recent test project between Southwest Airlines, Cold Chain Technologies and Intelleflex.  He writes that, at IQPC: Cold Chain Technologies is showcasing a new reusable packaging system that combines vacuum insulated panels, refrigerant materials, and embedded RFID temperature tags from Intelleflex that can maintain a 2°-8°C internal temperature for up to 120 hours.   This type of packaging, when combined with a flight schedule such as Southwest Airlines Cargo’s 3,300 daily nonstop flights, gives shippers a number of options for moving temperature sensitive cargo anywhere in the United States in a matter of hours.

I agree. The option of utilizing a major air carrier’s massive flight schedule to successfully and safely ship temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals across the USA provides a new option for cold chain logistics.

Keefe then describes the project: Cold Chain Technologies, Intelleflex and Southwest validated the solution last month with a pharmaceutical test package that traveled between Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The time of the journey was six hours and 20 minutes, including time spent in the cargo holds and on the tarmac moving from plane to plane. The external temperature ranged from 78° F to 89° F, yet the internal temperature of the package (which was read repeatedly) remained between 2° and 4° C. The test showed how shipments that need to be maintained between 2°-8°C can be easily shipped with proper temperature management via Southwest Airlines.

You can see these products on the show floor at IQPC today and tomorrow.  Visit us at Intelleflex at booth 40.  I hope to meet you there!

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

Food Safety Audits – Impacts on Traceability

Lara Sowinski of Food Logistics magazine wrote a great article on Food Safety Audits that’s well worth the read.  In the article, she discusses how the impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), increasing imports, growing recalls and supply chain complexity are pressuring the industry to maintain and improve food safety.

Food safety audits will impact traceability requirements – RFID can help

The article quotes Melanie J. Neuman, an advisory manager who specializes in food safety issues for PricewaterhouseCooper’s retail and consumer practice who says that, when it comes to the impact of the FSMA, “companies are facing the most sweeping changes in food regulations in over 70 years.”

Neuman explains that the role of PwC is to advise its clients on best practices to meet and comply with regulations, not only for the FSMA, but for a host of food safety laws and regulations that are governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We really help clients integrate food safety into their culture and their daily operations,” says Neuman.  This is the first stage, she explains in the interview, but then they drill deeper with their clients.  Neuman continues that “The next step of the assessment starts to drill deeper into other categories, such as whether or not the company’s electronic traceability systems are robust enough to comply with the current regulations and their customers’ expectations for producing reports. We look at the company’s ability to track and trace products accurately and quickly, including the ability to identify all ingredients, including raw materials, all production and inventory records, and all distribution on an outbound basis, in order to quickly track product in the event of a food borne illness or other food safety risk.”

Neuman states that tracking and tracing capabilities are high on the list of items that an auditor will examine during an inspection and adds that “record keeping practices go hand in hand with tracking and tracing.”

RFID and intelligent pallets and returnable transport items can help deal with the complexities of the modern supply chain.  With all of the hand offs and issues associated with increasingly diverse and extensive supply chains, making it easier to capture, store and share electronic traceability information every step of the way will be critical.  To learn how, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

SmartView from Antaris Helps Panalpina Gear Up For Temperature Controlled Shipments

SmartView, an award winning solution for cool chain optimization from Intelleflex partner Antaris Solutions, is utilizing RFID solutions such as Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags and readers to enable logistics provider Panalpina to better control and manage shipments of temperature sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals.  A story, which appeared recently in Logistics Week and a number of other publications details how SmartView delivers new levels of visibility and control by providing Panalpina with actionable data about the status of their shipments as they move from the manufacturer in Europe to the United States via Panalpina’s 747 air freighters.

Panalpina, with operations on six continents, uses SmartView in its own controlled air freight network. SmartView provides Panalpina an integrated control center to manage temperature sensitive shipments throughout the end-to-end supply chain. Temperatures can be documented in the air, and actively monitored in the transit warehouse and on the road. Where there are instances of temperature deviations, Panalpina now has the tools to proactively intervene.

SmartView, from Antaris Solutions, Provides Actionable Data In-transit – Not Just After Delivery

Traditional data loggers only provide information about the condition of a shipment after it has been delivered when it is too late to take any corrective action.  Monitoring the products in transit using Antaris’ SmartView as they move from manufacturer to the customer enables Panalpina to provide a better level of service to their customers creating a competitive advantage for them in the marketplace.  This process can all be automated so that Panalpina can collect data even where they have no personnel.

With the massive increase in the volume and value of temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, the old approach to monitoring temperature sensitive shipments is inadequate for managing today’s cool chain.  Solutions like SmartView utilize the latest in RFID to address the challenges faced by today’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and third party logistics providers.  You can learn more about SmartView by viewing this recent IQPC webinar in which Antaris Solutions Managing Director explains how SmartView is helping Panalpina deliver a superior service to its customers.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing