Help! New Acronym Needed

June 1, 2007
This is your chance to help shape the future of the RFID-connected world as we know it. No, really. The usual nomenclature subcommittee is on vacation

This is your chance to help shape the future of the RFID-connected world as we know it. No, really. The usual nomenclature subcommittee is on vacation and we need a way to describe what will likely become a commonplace use of RFID.

What is it, you ask? It's the use of the same RFID tag to provide both item location (both as a real-time location systems (RTLS) tag and a conventional track-and-trace tag) and to carry significant amounts of data about the item.

Why, you ask, would we want to do this? Simply because looking that information up in a remote database is not always the best or most economical solution. Here's an example from aerospace, which is one of the primary industries pursuing this use of RFID.

You have an aircraft on the ground in some remote location. You need to perform some sort of repair or maintenance on one of its engines. Having the maintenance, revision and upgrade data right there on the engine or part itself means that service personnel have the information they need, when they need it, regardless of whether the facility is WiFi-enabled or has a reliable Internet connection.

Let's get a little more down-to-earth. Within your facility, you have required safety equipment as well as industrial equipment that requires routine maintenance and safety checks. Keeping all these records up-to-date and ensuring that safety equipment is, in fact, where it's supposed to be, can be time consuming and error-prone.

Now, suppose all these components could not only tell you, "Here I am," but could also, on demand, provide inspection or maintenance data either remotely or when queried by a hand-held reader.

Or let's say you need a generator to power a section of a worksite for the next month. You have two suitable ones somewhere on site. But only one of them has been serviced recently. The other might not make it through the month. Finding the right generator could be a snap with this type of tag—not only by identifying its location but also its service history.

Or let's say that, instead of an aircraft, you have a fleet of over-the-road trucks. While this is a bit futuristic (and would require industry-wide consensus), wouldn't it be nice for a third-party repair facility to be able to read everything they need to know—including, for example, a requirement that they use OEM parts rather than "will fit" or generic parts—right there on the vehicle itself? And that same tag could be the gate access pass, the fuel pump activator, and provide the location of the tractor in the yard. And, of course, once repairs or maintenance is complete, this information is written to the tag and then communicated back to you when the tractor drives through the gate.

If you stop to think about it, there are many applications that could truly benefit from having lockable expanded memory in locator tags. But, in a world of acronyms, what do we call this type of system? RTLS Plus (RTLS+)? Enhanced Locating Systems (ELS)? Self-identifying Portable Databases (SIPD)? Real-time Knowledge Base and Locator Systems (RTKBLS)? An "elephant" tag (since elephants have long memories and are rather easy to spot)? Okay, I'm not serious about the last suggestion, but you understand the challenge.

So, here's your chance to make your mark on the brave new interconnected world: Come up with a good description for this emerging technology. Or, lacking that, just think of how you could use it to your benefit.

Bert Moore is a 20-year veteran of the AIDC industry. He is director of IDAT Consulting & Education, Alpharetta, Ga

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