The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

RFID-Equipped Pickups Won’t Let Tools Go Missing

February 13, 2008

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. is teaming up with ThingMagic, Inc., of Cambridge, to help ensure construction workers always carry the right tools for the job. The system they’re developing, called Tool Link, will feature personal computers in Ford’s popular F-Series pickup trucks. A radio frequency identification (RFID) tag system will let a truck automatically take inventory of the tools it’s carrying, according to the Boston Globe.

Ford worked with ThingMagic and DeWalt Industrial Tools Inc., of Baltimore, to apply the technology to pickup trucks. Researchers at Ford found that many F-Series truck operators lose time and money by arriving at a worksite with the wrong tools, or by leaving tools behind once a job is done.

Ford reached out to ThingMagic and DeWalt, which already makes wireless security systems for preventing theft of tools and equipment at construction sites. The Tool Link system isn’t a burglar alarm, but a system that instantly recognizes every tool carried in the truck. Each Tool Link-equipped truck comes with 50 RFID tags that have been “ruggedized” to withstand harsh treatment. The customer glues a tag to each tool, according to the Boston Globe.

The truck contains an onboard computer, built by a subsidiary of the Italian carmaker Fiat, that’s equipped with an automotive version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. The truck bed also contains a ThingMagic-designed reader to detect RFID chips. Using a touch screen or wireless keyboard, a user can create a tool inventory for a truck by scanning in each tagged tool and then typing in a description, such as “hammer” or “power drill.” From then on, the truck will automatically scan itself at start-up to see which tools are present. The inventory appears on the dashboard computer screen.

Ford will introduce the system during the 2009-model year as an option for F-Series pickups and E-Series vans, as well as a new line of “Transit Connect” miniature cargo delivery vans.

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