News | November 25, 2008

Tracient's Handheld RFID Readers Provide RFID Capability To Blackberry PDAs

Many companies across a range of industry sectors provide their employees with Blackberry PDAs as remote office tools. Historically, if they also wanted mobile RFID capability they had to invest additionally in more expensive RFID embedded handheld computers. Now, thanks to Tracient Technologies' handheld RFID readers, they can invest in a low cost handheld reader which simply reads RFID tags and collects the data, then transfers it to their Blackberry via Bluetooth. From there it can be processed/ stored in an application on the Blackberry and/or transferred anywhere via the Blackberry's gprs.

A recent example of this was the use of Blackberry PDAs and Tracient's Padl-R HF RFID readers by Farmacias del Ahorro, a pharmacy chain that has 700 franchise stores through out Mexico.

Being the dispenser of a large amount of prescription pharmaceuticals the company relies on a large amount of expensive equipment to administer it's services, including scales, pill counters, centrifuges, computers, racks, etc. The amount of this equipment going missing was alarming so Farmacias engaged Nauter Technologies of Mexico City to come up with an autoID solution to track every single piece of equipment in each store. A key factor was the solution had to be easy for their staff to implement using their existing Blackberry 8700G PDAs.

Options that Nauter considered included Bar-codes and fixed RFID readers. Bar-coding was dropped because of complications reading the barcode in harsh environments, in particular in warehouses where there is a lot of dust and humidity. Fixed readers were considered too expensive in terms of capital outlay. In the end Nauter decided on a relatively inexpensive handheld RFID reader to be able to read tags on the assets and upload the information to the databases held on Farmacia's Blackberrys.

Nauter chose Tracient's Padl-R HF RFID reader because it's Bluetooth connectivity provided quick and easy RFID capability to the Blackberry. The compact, lightweight form factor was also important given many of the operators were relatively small women, and the single button operation meant reader operation was straight forward for low tech workers.

Solution
ISO15693 13.56 MHZ SLI tags were placed on every piece of equipment in the franchise store. During asset counting the pharmacy administration staff used the Padl-R HF to scan the tags. Tag information was transferred almost simultaneously to the operator's Blackberry via Bluetooth. The Blackberrys held Farmacias' asset database and matched the tag ID with the asset.

The operator could then write information such as time/ date of visit, operator's ID, status of asset and other business related information into the keyboard of the Blackberry and transfer it back to the tag using the ‘write' function in the RFID reader.

Nauter capitalised on Tracient's comprehensive Software Development Kit (SDK) to integrate the readers with the Blackberry 8700G. Nauter developed their application in Java and ran it on the Blackberry's RIM operating system. Nauter's software for the smart phone offered a simple interface from the Blackberry back to Farmacia's enterprise database over the network. Staff could communicate the information to the enterprise database during the inventory taking via GPRS technology. Using a software platform developed by Nauter this gave the option of 100% asset visibility on every franchise in Mexico. Farmacia then knew exactly what time the asset inventory was completed and what assets were in each store.

Results
Nauter calculates that one person can do the asset inventory in about 45 minutes, so this employee can do 4 or 5 stores per day. With barcoding it is estimated the employee can achieve 1 or 2 stores per day, meaning there is a significant reduction in labour time and cost.

Human errors around data capture on assets and data entry back in the office have been eliminated, resulting in more efficient use of employees time.

Farmacia now has real time visibility and increased accuracy around it's assets which has lead to more efficient asset utilisation and the reduced need for ‘buffer' equipment.

The solution has also given Farmacia the ability to ensure the depreciation of assets is maximised in each store.

The feedback from Farmcias' staff is the bluetooth connection between the Padl-R HF and the Blackberry is easy to establish and they particularly like the lightness of the reader.

What Next?
The Farmacia trial involved 20 pharmacies in the Northern part of Mexico city. The company now has plans to roll the solution out to another 40 franchises in the East and South of the city

In the future Nauter is considering the option of having the customer's database hosted on a browser so that all the customer's employees have access to up-to-date asset information in real time.

Tracient Technologies are excited as the Blackberry adds to a growing list of PDAs and phones that it's readers have been successfully paired with, including iPACS, i-mates, plus Nokia and Motorola cell phones. Following the Nauter Technology trial, Tracient's readers have also been paired with Blackberry Pearl and Curve PDAs.

The full case study can be found at www.tracient.com/document-library.html

About Tracient Technologies
Tracient Technologies specialises in the design and manufacture of wireless handheld RFID readers designed especially for mobile/ field applications. Tracient's products are designed to international standards and offer plug and play Bluetooth and USB connectivity with rapid integration into workstations, handheld computers and cellular phones. www.tracient.com

About Nauter Technologies
Nauter Technologies is a 100% Mexican company that was established formally in January 2000. Its founders are a group of young entrepreneurs with extensive experience in the fields of consultancy, technology and developing software for solutions on data collection. www.nauter.com

SOURCE: Tracient Technologies

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