RFID gets active and smart

WhereNet Corp., a wireless location and communications company, will unveil later this week WhereSoft Vehicle, a VTMS (vehicle tracking and management system) that will for the first time marry RFID and business rules to automate workflow.

Targeted at the automotive industry, its vehicle processing centers, and rental car companies, VTMS works with WhereNet active RFID tags and WherePort, an alerting technology that triggers tagged items to send a signal when it enters or leaves a specific zone.

For the automotive industry a transmitter, in this case a WhereTag, is assigned to every vehicle as it rolls off the assembly line and is linked to a VIN (vehicle identification number). Active tags, as opposed to passive tags, have a range of approximately 10 feet. Access points distributed around the processing center capture the location data.

To avoid what one industry analyst called a tidal wave of data generated by RFID, the VTMS technology adds context.

"The context is business process and business rules that help a company ignore things that are happening the way they are supposed to and alert managers to an exception that needs to be taken care of," said Bill McBeath, chief research officer at ChainLink Research.

Automating logistics is the first target for VTMS. Once business rules are assigned to specific shipments companies will be able to create a processing hierarchy based on the business value of the products, according to McBeath.

"When shipping items sometimes you are concerned about cost, other times on meeting a schedule no matter the cost," McBeath said.

Working with either vehicle tracking or yard management applications, the system can track trailers of inventory around yards or if the trailer has an appointment to be at a dock door at a certain time, if it doesn't get there it triggers an alert so that vehicles are not just sitting around, explained Dan Doles, president and CEO of WhereNet.

The concept of rules-based yard management is also applicable to other industries.

"In the future everything worth managing will be able to identify itself and its location and there will be application software to use that data to make things more efficient," Doles said.

WhereNet VTMS is shipping now and is priced between US$250,000 and $1,000,000.

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