A quiet UK success in RFID in the wilds of Dorset

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Situated just a short distance from the sea, set amongst 5 acres of landscaped gardens, sit the offices of Avonwood Developments Ltd. The company was established in 1987, to provide innovative electronic solutions for customers within various industrial environments.

Jarvis bought 50% of the company as they moved from Research towards Development. However this investment did not work out and Avonwood management engineered a buy out. Then, in 1994, they purchased Eureka Systems, a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) company with a worldwide reputation, from Davy International. Bob Thomas, Director, summed up the company by saying “not many companies understand RFID, whether from the business and process side or from the technical viewpoint. That is where Avonwood help, as we understand the technology and the business. We offer the total package.”

Avonwood have four niche markets that they operate in:

  • Vehicles—Avonwood offers a range of Eureka RFID solutions for vehicle and fleet operators that provide accurate identification for safety, security and management applications such as Trailer-iD and Driver-iD. Eureka Driver-iD is an authorised driver system that uses active RFID technology to allow only authorised personnel to drive selected vehicles. Driver-iD is a discrete and simple authorisation solution for both on and off road vehicles working in a variety of environments from the emergency services to quarries. I like the fact that the system can be used to recognise the driver and whether there is a driver present!! Another solution is Eureka-iD for access control and roller door automation. This is a solution to manage authorised forklift truck access to warehouses and control industrial roller doors. Using RFID technology, Eureka-iD provides added safety, security and access control for vehicles, drivers and personnel.
  • Assets—From high value equipment to keys, Avonwood can provide asset identification and security. The Eureka Key Tagging System was designed for Her Majesty’s Prisons. Each establishment has different requirements so the system is based on a module design that will fit into any prison establishment. The system ensures gate staff a greater control of the keys issued along with round the clock monitoring to strengthen the security of the establishment. Another solution for assets is Eureka AssetBASE, a low cost introduction to RFID technology, offering a real alternative to barcodes. It is designed to identify all types of assets from office equipment to machinery and tools. The solution enables the identification and management of assets to be done quickly and accurately and comes with an easy to organise database with a simple upload facility to keep everything up to date. It can be used to help with maintenance and inspection schedules, identification and cataloguing of items.
  • Personnel—Avonwood provide a range of hands-free solutions using active RFID tags that meet the needs of most personnel identification and monitoring applications, such as time and attendance, staff location, mass evacuation and access control.
  • Processes—Automation of processes can provide some interesting challenges but Avonwood have overcome many of these and have designed complete process control systems for production and manufacturing facilities. Their applications include engine manufacturing and food processing.

Watch for an announcement soon around a new solution, which has been developed for vial tracking (I will write a further article when this comes into the public domain). Avonwood are also working with Turbomeca and Volvo on an EU Framework 6 initiative called SMMART—a system for mobile maintenance; this follows the work Avonwood and Turbomeca have already done on aero engine MRO for the latter’s factory in Portsmouth. Avonwood are also involved in a trial in the paper industry.

All this success is based around the Eureka-iD Tag, an active tag that rather than continually broadcasting its presence, uses a low frequency activation field that gives a range of 5 metres; once the power source is activated, the tag uses a high frequency signal to broadcast data with a range of around 100 metres.

Avonwood are continually looking at their product offerings. Bob Thomas commented that the difference in wattages between the EU and the US makes for real problems in increasing range capability. He felt that thin-film battery technology might be the approach to solve this, and in addition it has the beauty of being reusable. Thomas also felt that industry was still hung up on the price of tags and I fully agree that until organisations look at the business issues that need to be solved and then work out the cost of this issue compared to the cost of the solution we will get nowhere.

Avonwood have been involved in RFID for a long time and have the experience and knowledge to progress further. All the best to this quiet corner of Dorset!