RFID Technology Aids People Who Are Blind in the Workplace
The following was submitted by ThingMagic partner SimplyRFiD, highlighting one of their recent RFID solution deployments. We’d like to hear from you too. If you have developed or deployed an innovative use of RFID, please submit it to ThingMagic for potential inclusion in our 100 Uses of RFID program.
A new technological system that allows people who are blind to work more accurately and efficiently was recently installed at four US locations, all factories that manufacture garments for the United States Department of Defense.
The company that developed and implemented this system is SimplyRFiD, a Warrenton, Va.-based software company.
Since 2005 a federal mandate has required that Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags be affixed to any clothing or other supplies sold to the DoD. The RFID tags are used to help the DoD better manage their inventory. The tags ensure that all shipments have come from verified providers, and that all packages contain the items they are meant to contain.
Many of the facilities that manufacture goods for the DoD are staffed by workers who are blind. The National Industries for the Blind (NIB), a non-profit organization that helps improve employment opportunities for people who are blind, became interested in ways that RFID technology could be used not only to fulfill government mandates, but to aid factory workers with certain tasks.
The NIB wondered whether a system could be created that would allow workers who are blind to accurately pack boxes with the correct type and quantity of an item.
Engineers at SimplyRFiD developed such a system. By linking RFID tags with audio equipment and allowing workers to communicate via a touch-screen, it is now simple for employees who are blind to know how many items are in a box they are packing, whether the items are the correct items, and which items to remove if a box is packed incorrectly.
“It’s almost a foolproof system,” said Mike Sebach the operations manager at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, located in Salisbury, which was the pilot location for this technology. “If [SimplyRFiD] hadn’t done what [they] did we would have had to give these jobs to sighted workers.”
Sebach said his workers are now able to pack boxes more accurately than sighted workers would. “The system will actually not allow us to over pack or under pack a carton.”
So far, in addition to the Maryland location, this system has been installed in facilities in Texas, New York, and North Carolina. Plans are underway for SimplyRFiD to implement the program at garment factories across the nation that employ workers who are blind.
“This technology could work in any warehouse, absolutely,” Sebach said.
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