Magazine Article | August 1, 2005

RFID Program Helps Contractors Track Power Tools

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, August 2005

Job site equipment theft, whether by workers or outside thieves, costs the construction industry up to $1 billion per year, according to a 2004 study by the National Equipment Register. Construction contractors deal with these equipment difficulties throughout the building season and often find tracking tools to be a study in futility.

Bosch Power Tools, through its Bosch Digital Power Tools Division, is easing those difficulties with a new program called SAFE & SOUND. Customers who opt into the program can order their power tools fitted with RFID tags or insert tags into pre-existing tools from Bosch or other manufacturers. Using a system developed by Blue Dot Solutions and RFID equipment from Intermec, Bosch is able to write the model number and serial number of the tool onto the RFID tag. The tags then can be tracked and managed using Intermec RFID scanning equipment, RFID tracking code developed by Blue Dot Solutions, and tool tracking software by ToolWatch.

SAFE & SOUND began as a direct result of professional-tool customers asking for a better way to keep tabs on Bosch products. "Not only do they worry about the tool disappearing because it costs hundreds of dollars, but they worry about their people being productive," says Bosch Digital Power Tools Product Manager John Doherty. Blue Dot developed the RFID software to write and lock the serial and model number to the tags and called in Intermec to provide the mobile computers, RFID tags, and readers. Blue Dot's mNOW! Mobile Framework's Application Design Tool provides a GUI (graphical user interface) component to configure reading and writing to RFID tags, while integrating with mNOW!'s packaged and design-your-own mobile computing applications. Bosch then tapped ToolWatch to provide tracking software that brings information stored on the RFID tags to life.

Bosch selected 70 tools, which cost from $100 to $1,000 each, to use with the RFID tag program. The company also provides tags for insertion into pre-existing tool inventory, whether Bosch or other manufacturers' products. Bosch selected Intermec 915 MHz tags, which are small enough to fit into tool handles and housings.

Unlike standard bar-coded labels used for identifying assets, the RFID tags are impervious to the harsh conditions of a construction site. Safe inside the tool, they can't be damaged or peeled off, and they remain readable even through a tool's plastic case.