Nowadays, you don't have to be a Wal-Mart or Johnson & Johnson to deploy RFID. A kind of "RFID starter kit" from Tego lets much smaller businesses exploit the latest generation of large-memory, programmable tags.
TegoDrive combines a Windows 7 application with about a dozen programmable TegoChip RFID tags, and a third-party USB tag reader, all for less than $1,000. The tags can have up to 32 kilobytes of configurable, and encryptable, memory. Using the PC application, you can drag and drop to the tags such items as component inspection reports, images, digital signatures, and other documents and data in common formats such as PDF, jpg, htm or txt. The amount of memory lets you track who "touches" a tagged asset, what changes have been made to it, or view details of an electronic shipping manifest.
In effect, TegoDrive adapts RFID for fewer, high-value assets, instead of the traditional large-scale deployments that require big software and hardware investments to track thousands or even millions of items, sasy Tim Butler, CEO and founder of Tego, Waltham, Mass. Tego, founded in 2005, designs and sells rugged RFID tags, the chip that goes in them, and systems software.
A Boeing aircraft mechanic, for example, could use a Tego tag to "read" a specific critical part or system on the aircraft, confirm that the information is up to date, pull data from the component and feed it into back-end systems, and see the history of who has accessed the part and for what purpose.
In a demonstration, Butler opened TegoDrive on a laptop, added an email attachment to the tag, viewed an inspection report from the tag in HTML format. The system can be set up to audit access to the tag's information.
The TegoDrive bundle is available in April. The vendor plans to release a stand-alone version of the Windows 7 application later, and a custom API that will let third parties integrate RFID readers and applications.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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