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RFID Tags Enable Accurate and Secure IT Asset Tracking

Manually tracking IT assets can be time-consuming and error-prone. However, use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags can simplify asset tracking, improve accuracy, and provide increased levels of security to assist with compliance requirements.

About 10 years ago, RFID technology began widespread use for supply-chain management in the packaged-goods industry. More recently, some North American-based financial companies recognized its potential benefits to track IT assets. They organized the Financial Services Technology Consortium (FTSC), which published standards for RFID tagging of IT assets. Their implementation has helped address elements of Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The FTSC requirements address issues such as:

  • Durability. The tags’ lifespan must be consistent with IT assets (7-10 years).
  • Readability. They must be read in a highly metallic environment where they’re surrounded by and attached to servers and racks.

Completed in 2008, the FTSC standard subsequently has been implemented by tag manufacturers, IT vendors and customers. It’s also compatible with RFID standards from EPCglobal, an organization focused on establishing worldwide standards for electronic product code technology.

Benefits of RFID Tags

The many benefits of RFID tagging include:

  • Assisting with asset-tracking compliance requirements
  • Significantly reducing the time to complete IT asset inventory, since there’s no need to look for hard-to-find serial numbers
  • More accurate collecting of inventory data
  • The ability to track assets moving in and out of the data center, reducing or eliminating the need to manually update asset location data
  • Reducing the loss of IT assets and, perhaps more importantly, the information contained within the asset

RFID Primer

RFID tags can be active or passive. Active tags have a built-in power source, typically an integrated battery. While offering a greater read distance, they have a limited lifespan, dependent upon how frequently they transmit a signal. Passive tags don’t have an integrated power source. When an RFID reader is in the vicinity of the passive tag, it’s energized allowing it to broadcast information to the reader. Passive tags have shorter read distances than active tags.

The inexpensive RFID tags found on consumer product packaging are usually paper and foil based, which is fine for supply-chain management applications. However, they aren’t suited for IT-asset management, because they lack durability and work poorly in highly metallic data centers. The FSTC standard addresses these shortcomings.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at

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