To make the management of its equipment and evidence automatic, HFSC is piloting an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio frequency identification system, initially to track lab equipment and supplies. In the long run, the same technology will automatically track and manage the locations of firearms, biological evidence and evidence collected at crime scenes. JPL RFID, a software and hardware integration company, provided the tags and readers, as well as its own software and database to manage the data, says Jason Pitcock, JPL’s president.
With the use of RFID technology, the lab was able to create a single storage room for all of its lab supplies, with an RFID reader installed at the doorway and tags on each piece of equipment and every box of supplies
The badge’s unique ID number is linked to the user’s identity in the lab’s software. As a worker enters the storage area, that person’s tag ID is captured, and as he or she leaves with a piece of equipment, the item’s ID is captured along with the badge ID, in order to identify what was taken. In that way, the software has an up-to-date record of what is in the storage room and what needs to be replenished at any given time. HFSC uses a kanban method to identify low supply levels and place reorders.
To conduct periodic inventory counts, staff members carry a Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL) CS108 (http://www.convergence.com.hk/products/rfid/readers/cs108/) handheld RFID sled reader through the storage area to reconcile what is in the system with what is actually on the shelf. While those counts took hours to complete when performed manually, they can be accomplished within a matter of seconds with the RFID reader. For the RFID handheld reader, says Jerry Garrett, CSL’s managing director, “We are using the same composite antenna material that we used in the powerful CS101 handheld reader. This antenna provides the key element for the CS108 to achieve an 18- meter reader range—the longest read range in the industry for a handheld. More power means a high reliability in data capture.”
The next phase will include tracking firearm and toxicology evidence. When it comes to firearms, without an RFID system in place, the lab sends two workers to count all guns periodically—a process that takes two days to complete. Now, the lab will apply RFID tags to each gun, thereby reducing that inventory count and enabling Geiger counter functionality. All guns are expected to be tagged by the end of this month. In that way, guns can be accounted for in inventory counts, and individual guns can be easily located when needed.
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