Customers require GPS and RFID technologies to play nice together

For many years GPS and RFID – two important, but different, technologies – have dominated the asset tracking industry.  Both have their place, but also their limitations:

  1. GPS is the ideal technology to provide global traceability and management of field equipment.  It can be deployed quickly and provides worldwide coverage without the cost burden of installing infrastructure like readers.  The primary disadvantage, where applicable to the use case, is that GPS requires a view of the sky making indoor tracking (such as inside warehouses) problematic.
  2. RFID is relatively small and low cost, and can track assets while inside or under cover. One downfall is that it typically requires tracking infrastructure (such as gates and readers) to be installed, making RFID impractical in non-fenced areas, like many land rigs.  RFID installations typically take more time to implement than stand-alone GPS tracking, and can be very expensive to deploy. The technology is only usable if you know where an asset is going, which is not the case in many field operations.

There are more and more cases where customers need the best of both worlds:  GPS combined with RFID – because neither technology alone provides the entire solution.  A typical hybrid solution might require GPS devices for large, high value assets and containers, while RFID is employed for smaller assets and items under cover.  When working together, such solutions can answer questions neither GPS nor RFID can answer alone, i.e. “What’s in the container?”

One well-chronicled example is the award-winning (for supply chain excellence) BP Clair Ridge project.  Clair Ridge is a new $10 billion dual platform, constructed in South Korea, and ultimately destined for the North Sea.  By combining GPS and RFID, BP ensured global visibility for its worldwide supply chain during the construction phase.

The GPS + RFID collaboration met with strong approval from the industry.  One reader of RFID Journal commented: “It is HIGH TIME that the GPS and RFID worlds acknowledge the strengths of the other . . . The best systems will use each component for its highest value contributions, and will cease forcing inappropriate usage for the sake of short-term sales results.”

At Geoforce, we embrace this type of cooperative project. At its inception, Geoforce originally intended to directly offer BOTH GPS and RFID technologies.  Over time, we focused on being the best in the world at providing global traceability for remote field equipment.  By limiting our own technologies to GPS-based solutions, we were able to fund development of unique GPS hardware such as the GT1, the world’s only IECEx/ATEX Zone 0 certified device.

Since Geoforce doesn’t offer its own RFID solutions, we regularly work hand-in-hand with partner RFID companies, knowing that in many cases the combination of both is better than the sum of two separate parts.

Hybrid GPS/RFID solutions do require a higher level of integration than stand-alone GPS tracking, but that investment is sometimes worth the added cost.  That’s especially true in an era of lower oil and gas prices, in which increased asset utilization (which equals lower capital and operating costs) is imperative.

Some of the capable partners we’ve worked with on hybrid GPS/RFID solutions include:

  • Radiant RFID – who is leading the roll out of a major operator’s Gulf of Mexico advanced tracking project, and is noted for its Dynamic Asset Management solutions.
  • Mojix – the RFID provider for the BP Clair Ridge Project, as well as other supply chain focused solutions inside Oil and Gas.
  • Atlas RFID – who is well known for their Jovix™ materials management solution, particularly in large construction projects and lay down yards.  Atlas RFID is a leader in projects in the Canadian Oil Sands region.
  • TracID – who is known for its specialized Auto Tally “down hole” tracking capabilities, and has worked with Oil and Gas production companies ranging from Statoil to Encana.

We look forward to continued collaboration on GPS + RFID solutions – with these partners and others – during 2015 and beyond.