Delivering an integrated video and location system in Germany

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Holloway Angle

On August 13th 2007, eseg and Ubisense announced the live running of an integrated video and location system for Cordes & Simon, part of German transport network group System Alliance. Cordes & Simon needed a system that would help the company automatically locate a missing package and document when a shipment arrived and left the warehouse. The tracking system that integrates bar codes, video surveillance and RFID to quickly locate a package while it’s still in the company’s warehouse or call up recorded images of it after it has left, was installed at their newest warehouse in Villingen-Schwenningen, in southern Germany.

The system is able to document the progress of all shipments using an integrated video, bar-code and location system. It is able to capture in real-time the status of all goods in the 5,000 square metres facility, providing the capability to present the information related to any shipment at any instant in the past at the press of a button.

As a package arrives at the warehouse, it has a bar-coded label printed with a shipment ID number. A wireless handheld scanner is then used to read the bar code and transmit the date, time and shipment ID number to WMS. Each scanner has an Ubisense active RFID tag attached to it which transmits the tag’s unique ID number via ultrawide band (between 6 and 8.5 GHz) to the nearest readers. Ubisense readers measure the elevation and azimuth (angle) of the transmission from the tags as well as the time distance of arrival (TDOA) of transmission between several readers, thereby determining the location of each tag within 15 centimetres. Transmissions are received and then sent to the system server about three times a second. Each video camera is focused on one specific sector of the warehouse. Using the location information derived from the Ubisense system, the ESEG software automatically associates the RFID read with the camera that recorded the worker in the act of scanning the package’s bar code and stores the camera picture, shipment ID, camera ID, date and time. Cameras are connected to digital video recorders that store the picture data in the computer data storage system server.

Cordes & Simon are using the data to provide better information to their customers as well as gaining better control of their warehouse. From a customer’s perspective, they can sign onto a web site, enter the shipment ID and receive a picture of each related scan event that took place in the warehouse. They can then fast-forward the pictures recorded by the camera after the last scan to see what happened to the shipment. If the shipment moves out of range of one camera, the system can be set to switch automatically to the adjacent camera to continue reviewing the shipment’s movement in the warehouse.

Cordes & Simon is considering an extension to the system by affixing RFID tags to forklift trucks that move shipments into and out of the warehouse. With the forklifts tagged, the company can monitor where a driver was at any given time, and then refer to video recordings showing what shipments were moved with that forklift. The operator can then confirm that a particular forklift picked up the package, and the system displays the sequence of pictures capturing the forklift as it moves through the warehouse, finishing with where it deposited the shipment.