Enhancing RFID to improve safety and productivity in potentially hazardous areas

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As organisations look for new ways to improve operational efficiency and workforce productivity without compromising on safety, the use of RFID technology within the workplace is becoming more prevalent to quickly and accurately identify equipment, tools, parts/spares, locations, and even people.

Also, UHF RFID technology advancements over the past few years to improve performance in/on metal, improve ruggedness, reduce the tag size, and increase on-board memory size has brought this technology firmly in the frame for hazardous area projects. In fact, many see this technology as the future automated identification standard within hazardous areas since it offers more flexibility for the lifetime tracking of equipment both within a site and across supply chains.

However, in hazardous areas, some users still struggle with PDA devices which are large and poorly balanced, with protruding "bolt-on" UHF RFID readers and antennae which are difficult to use, awkward to carry, and can easily be snagged on plant equipment and infrastructure such as ladders -- potentially creating a safety incident.

And, over the lifetime of an RFID-tagged item of equipment, the tag needs to be read from close range when the equipment is inspected and from long range when the equipment is moved. Until now, the use of UHF RFID tags on adjacent equipment has carried the risk that the wrong equipment was scanned, and the inspection details were recorded against the wrong item of equipment. Reading smaller RFID tags which are embedded in metal or mounted on metal has also been a challenge.

With the recent introduction of the intrinsically-safe UNI900 UHF RFID reader/writer for ecom's i.roc(R) Ci70 -Ex, these concerns can now be relegated to the past. Based on ecom's 12 years of experience delivering replaceable RFID heads, the UNI900 has designed-in protection to operate safely in hazardous areas. And, the unique flexibility of the UNI900 to read UHF RFID tags from both close range and long range means you can use it without restriction for any application. Improved antenna performance also allows reading of small RFID tags embedded-in and mounted-on metal.

Connected to the i.roc(R) Ci70 -Ex, PDA as an integrated head module, the UNI900 head retains the same streamlined and well-balanced features of the i.roc(R) Ci70 -Ex, avoiding the use of any protruding "bolt-on" modules. Setup of new devices is also fast and simple using the automated 'Scan N Go' capability.

For existing Ci70 -Ex users, the UNI900 head can be easily retrofitted onto your existing devices -- giving you the future proofing you expected when you purchased your device. There is no need to buy a new Ci70 -Ex PDA, saving you time and money.

Typical applications for this device include plant audits/surveys, equipment/tool management, field inventory management, supply chain logistics, operator rounds, inspection/maintenance/repair, emergency mustering, and plant security checks.

And, the benefits include: reduced user fatigue and improved user experience; improved real-time visibility and control of containers, equipment and tools; improved accuracy of the item's cradle-to-grave history; reduced safety non-compliance risk; improved decision making and accountability; and higher profitability.

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