FOD sucks. (That’s Foreign Object Damage, or what happens when you leave something behind when you’re working on something critical like an airplane or a race car. Wrenches, you know, can really muck up operating jet engines.) For years, shops that work on such sensitive gear have gone to great lengths to assure that every tool that leaves the toolbox makes it back home. When I was a kid and I’d visit my dad at work (he worked in aircraft maintenance), I’d see lots of tool silhouettes –pegboards with tool shapes painted on them in bright colors so you’d see color only when the tool normally stored there was missing.
Well, technology marches on. CribMaster, a company that sells all sorts of automated inventory management products, teamed up with Proto to offer professional-quality tools with integrated RFID tags. By mounting tag readers at various choke points (like the door to a hangar, for example) computer systems can automatically read the passage of the tools and mark them in the system as checked out or checked back in. The new brand: ProtoID.
What I wonder is how long it’ll be until this technology trickles down to home use. Certainly there’s a place for it in the professional world, and integrating the tags into the tool itself rather than simply attaching them must be sound pretty attractive to corporate buyers. And this system can’t be nearly as expensive as it would’ve been even a few years ago, which means it might make sense for less-sensitive businesses which are worried about theft or misplacement of tools. But if you could afford it, this would be badass for keeping your tool from falling into the neighbor’s coveting paws. Or getting left in the upstairs bathroom after you repaired a toilet.
Anyway, if you’re interested in how the system works, you can find out more on the company’s website, below. If you click through, be sure to check out the links along the left side of the page where you’ll find everything from toolboxes which automatically check out/in tools, software to handle the record keeping, and even some tool vending machines.
RFID Embedded ProtoID Tools [CribMaster]