How do you scan an RFID tag with an Android device?

Some time ago we blogged about the way to scan an RFID tag with an iPhone and received a lot of great feedback from our users, team and on Twitter. This was something many found helpful and would actually use as a step-by-step guide. We all know it, some “small” things can be tricky at first. But once you learn something, you just know it and it all comes naturally.

This time, we’re looking into scanning an RFID tag with an Android device. Overall, the procedure is similar to doing it with an iPhone however there’s a few special things to take a note of. So here we go…  Read More

What could machine-to-machine (M2M) tech mean for safety?

It’s fascinating to consider how ideas around the “Internet of Things” or “machine-to-machine” technology or a “smart-grid” of connected devices could affect safety and compliance in the future. According to one recent study, the potential is absolutely huge when it comes to harnessing machine-to-machine (M2M) tech for environmental compliance, but what if safety is your primary concern?

We blogged about the Internet of Things in the past. Many people associate RFID, Near Field Communications (NFC), or even barcodes as having paved the way for it to happen. Others say a world where technology has connected physical objects to the digital world is already here. Perhaps it depends on your perspective, and what you expect from such concepts.

But the idea of connecting machines to machines within a safety system, and enabling smart communications between them, presents interesting possibilities. Could M2M technologies one day lead to lower lockout/tagout, fall protection, or industrial machinery violations? Read More

Thinking outside the box with RFID, smartphones and technology

Putting technology such as cloud computing, smartphones and RFID tags to work for better safety and compliance is like second nature to us. It’s what we work on every day, and what we talk about with the safety professionals who come to us with problems to solve.

But once in a while, you come across highly unique projects that demonstrate just how truly flexible and limitless these technologies can be. If you look into RFID, for example, you’ll find countless industrial uses that may or may not relate directly to safety, but highlight the many ways it can be applied to solving problems. In many cases, it starts with creativity.

And sometimes, it’s more about fun than solving anything… Read More

Safety trends, culture and the ‘Internet of Things’

Safety trends for the year ahead have been covered and shared, and perhaps they’ll keep coming. The same can be said about technology trends and predictions. Rather than repeat them all, we wanted to highlight a few favourites.

In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the forward-looking statements that really stood out to us. From the continued mobile revolution to the “Internet of Things,” here are some of the talked-about trends that we found most exciting… Read More

RFID in action: Convenience and safety in transit

The transit turnstiles in Atlanta - Simply "Tap to Exit"!

At Field ID, we’ve been using Radio Frequency Identification (or RFID) with inspection software for safety directors to help them tag and track equipment, manage employee training and certifications, and run efficient safety audits on facilities and jobsites. But RFID technology has many other uses as well. For example, on a recent trip to Atlanta for an AWRF conference, the Field ID team used RFID cards to travel around the city on the MARTA rapid transit system (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). Read More

Safety inspections with Near Field Communication (NFC) and RFID

NFC Apps within the Android Market

We’ve been interested in RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC) for quite some time. As makers of inspection software that works seamlessly with RFID, mobile devices and the web, the idea that more and more mobile devices will include NFC readers is very exciting.

Just this month, ABI Research analyst John Devlin told USA Today that he expects the number of NFC-enabled handsets on the market to grow from 34 million this year to 80 million next year. In the same article, Gartner analyst predicted NFC growth in handsets passing 100 million this year.

Last month, our COO Shaun Ricci blogged about our discovery that a Samsung Galaxy S ll, running a simple NFC reader from the Android Market, could quickly and easily scan a piece of safety equipment. Today, Field ID CEO is featured in a new video demonstration. Somen shows just how easy it is to use an NFC reader for safety inspections.

View the demonstration below or on our YouTube channel.

You’ll probably hear more about NFC this year. Many may associate the technology with solutions such as mobile payments, as Somen notes in the video. At Field ID, we’re constantly looking at how contactless technologies like NFC can improve safety management from a software perspective, and from our users’ perspectives.

Santa expands use of Field ID for fall protection

We are excited to announce that after last years initial deployment of Field ID for Santa’s sleigh compliance, the his North Pole operations will be renewing and expanding their use of Field ID into 2012. Initially, Santa started using Field ID for sleigh maintenance and manufacturing safety compliance. The next phase of the roll out started shortly after OSHA made changes to the rules around residential fall protection. Although Santa runs a global operation on Christmas Eve, the fact that he goes house to house and from country to country actually means he must comply with several residential and fall protection regulations, across many different jurisdictions. Santa’s expanded safety management program will ensure he’s compliant throughout the year and around the world.

It’s not all magic

Many people might assume that because Santa can harness magic he is exempt from OSHA rules and other safety compliance regulations around the globe. This is not true.

“Yes, magic plays a role in our operation,” noted Santa, “but magic only gets us from house to house.”

The truth is that once Santa gets to any house, he still has to take the same fall protection precautions that any person working at heights would. If anything, Santa is under even more pressure to meet regulatory requirements than the average safety manager – whether working at home or on location at sites around the globe. Away from home, he’s under the microscope because enforcement agencies don’t want him to set a bad example. After all, the average person simply can’t rely on magic to prevent injury. Up north, Santa must comply with NPSHA (North Pole Safety and Health Administration). As we discovered last year, the NPSHA is even more strict than OSHA when it comes to safety managment.

The safety of the elf team

HSE Manager Yukon

After being promoted to North Pole Health and Safety manager years ago, Yukon Cornelius needed a way to track all of the Christmas team’s fall protection. Many people don’t know this, but the work fo Santa’s Elves doesn’t stop when all of the toys are made. They travel with him on Christmas Eve as well to assist in delivering presents to all the good girls and boys.

Hundreds of elves assist in this magical night. Each elf has a harness and self-retracting lifeline that needs to be inspected for safety before they leave the North Pole on Christmas Eve. And throughout the journey that night, the elf safety team must quickly and efficiently conduct onsite inspections at regular intervals (usually performed when Santa has stopped to deliver a notably large load, such as those present shipments destined for children living in apartment buildings).

Yukon uses Field ID, RFID tags and mobile devices to inspect each piece of fall arrest equipment and assign them to each unique elf.  Not only does Yukon ensure the safety of his team with Field ID, he ensures that he keeps track of the equipment and enforces loss protection.

“Christmas should be a happy time for everyone, including the elves that are on duty that night,” said Yukon. “When my team goes out, I need the peace of mind that comes with electronic inspection and safety management. I know my guys and girls will be safe out there, regardless of the weather. And the fact that Field ID lets me manage safety in the cloud, in real time, lets me tap into that peace of mind from anywhere, anytime.”

We at Field ID are extremely excited that Santa has chosen to expand his Field ID deployment. We’re also very excited to include Yukon on the beta testing for our iPad app in early 2012.

Happy Holidays from our entire team at Field ID!

Will NFC help change safety compliance?

If you haven’t noticed, we at Field ID are phone geeks. When someone gets a new handheld in the office, we all play around with it. One of our software developers, Kumana, recently picked up the Samsung Galaxy S II.

As we were talking about it and testing it out, we remembered that it has Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities. And NFC means it works with RFID – the same standard technology that our customers use every day to track safety compliance for millions of assets.

Naturally, we were running around scanning slings and harnesses around the office with Kumana’s phone, having some fun with features, and exploring how this would complement our inspection software.

Why didn’t we try this before?

We’ve written about NFC being the same technology that we use for RFID tags in fall protection equipment in the past. So, what’s changed? Well, it was only last week that we actually fired up an NFC scanner and tested the tags. We headed to the Android Market in search of an NFC test application. We tried three of them, but it wasn’t working. Then, after waving the tag around trying to find the antenna…

“I think it worked!”

I was at my desk and Kumana sent me an instant message: “It worked!” I ran over and, sure enough, it was scanning one of our test tags. With any RFID reader, you need to find the sweet spot in the antenna to scan. The first tag was easy though; it was a sticker tag. We thought, “No way will this scan the tags embedded metal.” Sure enough, we scanned the metal tags too.

More testing, to be sure

Before we can absolutely certify that this use of NFC will work with Field ID (reliably, in the field), we need to do some more testing. We’re hard at work on the Android and iOS Field ID applications right now, so this random test came at the right time. It’s very exciting to uncover details like these.

Think about it. With many new NFC-enabled phones coming to market, we can harness the scanners on these devices to make Field ID even more powerful. Anyone will be able to put the power of electronic inspection management and safety compliance into the palm of their hand, and carry it conveniently in their pocket as they head into the field.

Stay tuned for more NFC testing in the New Year!

RFID inventor leaves legacy of innovation

We’re huge advocates for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. It’s had a major impact on effective safety management, and its usefulness has proven valuable across many industries. So today, we pay tribute to one of the founding fathers of RFID technology, Charles Walton, who passed away in November.

Charles Walton (1921-2011)

With a degree in electrical engineering and a Masters from a technology institute, Charles Walton served in the army, spent time working at IBM’s research and development labs, and founded a company called Proximity Devices. While many people contributed to the invention of RFID, Walton’s work ultimately paved the way for RFID’s adoption in inspection software and other areas. He was awarded 10 patents relating to RFID, including the first one to specifically note the phrase ‘radio frequency emitting identifier.‘ That was the early 1980s. This year, RFID is expected to generate about $6-billion in worldwide revenue (ABI Research).

Of course, large retailers and government departments have also adopted RFID in various ways, and it’s uses range from scanning grocery items to inspecting industrial equipment. Interestingly, by the time the technology caught on, some of Walton’s patents had expired. But he wasn’t concerned with the money. He told Venturebeat in 2004: “I feel good about it and gratified I could make a contribution.”

In 2005, the Lemelson-MIT program named Walton Inventor of the Week for his RFID contributions:

“No single individual may take credit for all of the technological advances that lead up to the ultimate development of RFID, but one inventor, Charles Walton, was among the first to patent innovations related to this area. Having been awarded at least 10 patents for RFID-related devices with more than 50 patents to his credit overall, Walton undoubtedly had a hand in putting the technology on its path to vast, wide-scale deployment and commercialization.”

We have to admit, we were surprised to find that later in life, Charles Walton authored a book called The Space Before Your Face. “In the space before your face, there is much going on,” reads the description. “Introduce yourself and your family to areas where humanity has learned and will continue to learn for many lifetimes.”

Charles Walton’s contributions to RFID have definitely made a mark on what we do at Field ID. The man and the technology have a fascinating history. For more on RFID, check out RFID Journal’s history here. For more on Charlie Walton, read the Venturebeat story about Walton’s passing.

LiftEx 2011 – RFID for LOLER Record Keeping

This blog post is coming a little bit late but as the saying goes, better late than never! If you caught my first blog post a few weeks ago, then you know I recently represented Field ID at the second annual LiftEx conference in Leeds, England. LiftEx is a conference for the lifting and rigging industry that is held by LEEA. As you can see from the picture, our booth was not nearly as elaborate as other trade shows. That being said, even with the smaller booth we had plenty of traffic.

To get there, I took a plane from Toronto to London and then took a train to Leeds. I arrived in Leeds in the early evening and realized I needed a few supplies. Although I had a travel power adapter, it wasn’t working with my three prong plug for my MacBook. I also needed to print some literature for the show the next day. I made it to a Staples where they were able to help me with both, and I was set for LiftEx 2011.

RFID a Theme at LiftEx 2011

There were roughly six companies at LiftEx 2011 that were, in some way or another, supporting the use of mobile devices, RFID and the web to keep track of lifting equipment inspections and LOLER certifications. It’s clear that modern safety is becoming a global phenomenon, and it’s always exciting for us to have the opportunity to show Field ID off to organizations coming from different places, in this case from across Europe. We’re firm believers in RFID’s power when it comes to improving safety and efficiency, so we were glad to see so many organizations embracing it.

Field ID Presents

I also had the opportunity to give a presentation on applying modern safety techniques to the tracking and inspection of lifting equipment. The room was jam-packed of full people, and I believe the presentation received great response. I focused on using technology – including the web, RFID and several different handheld devices – for lifting equipment records. There were many questions about which mobile devices you can use when combining inspections with the web and RFID, and we covered a few different types and brands. I would say there was an equal amount of interest in new devices like the iPhone as in trusted rugged devices. I hope everyone enjoyed the presentation.

After many AWRF meetings and exhibits, it was a lot of fun to spend time with the LEEA group. LiftEx is still a young event, and we were very impressed at the amazing job LEEA did on organizing it. We look forward to participating with the association in the future.

Finally, with interest so high among the people we met at LiftEx, we’ve decided to host a webinar for anyone interested in learning more about using RFID for LOLER record keeping. It’s scheduled for December 14th and titled, “LEEA: Digitize your LOLER Inspections using RFID, Mobile Devices and the Web.” If you’re interested, visit www.fieldid.com/webinars to register.