Cactus Chips

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 05, 2010 @ 11:36 AM

Tags: Loss Prevention, RFID, Asset Tracking

RFID Helps Protect a Desert Symbol

SaguaroI bet you didn’t realize that thieves could get between $500 and $5,000 - per cactus!  Apparently, if a Saguro cactus is in its prime (roughly 40 years old and 5 feet tall) a nursery or landscaper and even a collector will pay dearly for it.

The Los Angeles Times reported that officials in Palm Desert, California put up surveillance cameras after losing $20,000 worth of cacti. That method can’t be cheap. But there is another way.

Park managers at Saguaro National Park are using RFID tags to serve as a deterrent to the cactus thievery. The tags are inserted into the cactus with a needle and will last as long as the plant’s life, which could be 200 years or so. The tags can be read by scanners about a foot away which enables them to be found in nurseries during periodic checks or in passing trucks on the road. The RFID scanners can also reveal the origin of the cactus to help verify whether it’s been stolen. A popular myth is that the police can locate the missing cacti with an embedded GPS which has contributed to the deterrent effect.

RFID tags also help protect the beautiful desert symbol by letting scientists keep track of the 1.3 million saguaros in the park by recording their location, health and growth rate. IF RFID can make a difference like this for the Saguaro, imagine what it can do for other endangered species of plant and wild life.  

Some believe the desert is a mystical place with ways of exacting its revenge against violators.  But if you’re not a believer in the Great Spirit and are still thinking of rustling a cactus, you better watch out for RFID.

[Photo source: http://www.davewilsonimages.com]

RFID Takes on Container Fraud

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Aug 06, 2010 @ 11:10 AM

Tags: Loss Prevention, RFID, Container Tracking

Horticulture Partnership Takes a Giant Step for its Industry 

When you think of counterfeiting, it's things like $100 bills, documents, watches and signatures that usually come to mind. But would you ever think of containers? Somehow that doesn’t seem like it would attract the black market. But where there is easy money to be had, even containers don’t go unnoticed. And the window of time in which they can be intercepted is quite big. Often times they must go through customs and pass inspection at various sites on overseas trips and it’s at those spots that the containers are stolen, identification tags are falsified and they are lost in the system forever.

Previous tracking and identification methods proved fruitless

Counterfeiters aren’t the only ones to blame for missing containers. Needless to say, it’s no easy task to monitor containers on long journeys. Aside from being stolen, they are often misplaced or damaged. Container Centralen (CC), the most widespread returnable transport item (RTI) pooling system in the European flower and pot plant industry, has 3.5 million containers and 25 million Freshboxes, as well as many other RTIs like trolleys in circulation around the world. It and other horticulture companies would authenticate the carts visually with specific padlocks, metal plates with serial numbers and bar-coded labels. But dirt and the environment made the bar codes illegible and the counterfeiters could easily duplicate the visual identifiers. CC was replacing about 150,000 trolleys a year that were missing or stolen. It was time to put a stop to it.

The horticulture industry takes action

CC CartCC formed a partnership with other organizations to launch a project called ‘Operation Chip It’ that would implement RFID to address container loss and improve its overall efficiency. Because this was deemed a very large and important project (a $16.6 million project to be exact) CC enlisted IBM to design the hardware and Confidex to custom design the tags. Handheld RFID scanners suitable for different types of CC container users have also been certified for the project, including several from PANMOBIL and Nordic ID that include ThingMagic embedded RFID modules

So how does the system address counterfeiting?  Containers with falsified identification tags will not be accepted into the CC Pool System.  If a user returns a container with fake tags at a CC depot, a failed reading will result and it will be refused at the door – period.  Being able to read the RFID tags guarantees Container Centralen and its customer against receiving counterfeit CC Containers. 

Since its inception in 1976, CC has regularly replaced the identification tags on its containers.  This latest tagging project is the fifth for CC and the first one using RFID.  Imagine the cost savings for both CC and its users if counterfeit containers are squeezed out of the system and no longer need to be replaced!

Aside from thwarting counterfeiters, the RFID application yields additional benefits. Since the container is often used as a display unit in stores, the flowers and plants can be tracked from the grower to the consumer, eliminating the need for product handling in between. As a result, the risk of damaged goods goes way down and overall distribution costs also decrease.

And the project continues. The partnership will take the RFID initiative to the next phase once the first tagging phase is complete. Next, the horticulture industry will use RFID to track and trace processes, automate ordering and decrease paperwork. It probably won’t be long before the millions of dollars invested in the RFID project will be paid back with dividends.

Given the large scale of the project, CC is taking significant steps to educate its customers on the value of implementing RFID. CC has established an Operation Chip It web site, they are hosting webinars and training sessions, distributing program brochures and posters, and have even established dedicated web stores with its partners to simplify the purchase of certified scanner hardware.

What other industries are susceptible to fraud, loss and damage that should consider using RFID? 

The Batteryless RFID Imperative in Healthcare

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 @ 10:36 AM

Tags: Loss Prevention, RFID, Asset Tracking, Healthcare, RTLS

Patient-Centric Applications That Are Changing the Healthcare Landscape

“Today, for as little as 8 cents per tag in quantities of 5 million units, one can obtain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that need no batteries and can report their unique identity to a reader 50 feet away. What does this mean? Simply put, batteryless (also called passive) tags enable the rapid and precise measurement of almost every operation in the healthcare setting - from counting and verifying the number of items in each surgical tray to understanding the calculus of human behavior in hygiene compliance. Think about this for a moment. I’ll wait.”

The statement above is an excerpt from a new whitepaper published by ThingMagic, exploring the numerous benefits of deploying Passive RFID in healthcare environments. Download the paper here.

Simply put, Passive RFID is the most economical way to measure a large number of parameters in healthcare settings. For example, Passive RFID can be implemented as fixed/finished readers and embedded into mobile and stationary devices to perform a variety of functions including operating room loss prevention, surgical tray and instrument track-and-trace, pharmaceutical control, document management, patient tracking/throughput, infection control, inventory control and even inventory management in ambulances.

The extreme deployment and integration flexibility of Passive RFID is complemented by the many different types of low cost Passive RFID tags that can be affixed to, or integrated into everything from consumable inventory, to handheld surgical tools, metals, liquids, patient wristbands, photo ID badges and many other items. 

Given today’s economic environment, this unmatched number of low cost, easy to deploy reader and tag combinations allows hospitals to select a single or a small number of critical areas to deploy a Passive RFID solution – based on immediate need - then expand to additional departments or add complementary components such as an RTLS or other Active RFID platforms as more resources and budget become available.

RFID Loss Prevention PortalFurther, the ability to embed Passive RFID into mobile and stationary devices allows hospitals to benefit from patient-centric applications that would otherwise not be possible, such as point-of-care solutions and services, automated pharmaceutical receipt & distribution, and automated admissions, discharge and transfer.

An example of this approach is in motion at The Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center. This installation has proved highly successful, avoiding the loss of many expensive surgical items like a $19,000 electronic neo-probe. In its next phase, Greenville Hospital will deploy Passive RFID readers throughout its main facility to track nearly 5,000 pieces of mobile medical equipment. Download the case study.

What are some other interesting RFID deployments in healthcare? What will be the next driver for healthcare organizations to invest in Passive RFID? We want to hear what you think. Please leave your comment here. 

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