Tracking IT assets such as laptops poses interesting problems, especially when you have security requirements. Some specific challenges seen with laptop tracking includes:
Laptops generally have a significant amount of metal on them, so using passive RFID tags can be a challenge. Sometimes laptops have a plastic outer layer, however the metal inside the screen and component parts will cause interference. The best way to solve this problem is to select a ‘metal mount’ tag. Metal Mount tags will increase the read range significantly, as they use the metal as a conductor to project the RFID signal farther.
Almost all RFID tag vendors have released metal mount tag options in recent years. They offer different sizes that provide different read ranges. Our testing has found variances of 10 feet or more between different tags.
When making a decision about which metal mount tag to choose, it is recommended that you test multiple tags on your actual laptops, so that you can see how well each one works in your environment.
Choosing a metal mount tag, which is thicker than a regular RFID tag, can be a challenge. Often employees do not like tags that are larger for purely aesthetic reasons, and because of the possibility of the tag getting caught on a laptop bag as it goes in and out of the bag. Metal mount tags can sometimes be 1/8-¼” or thicker. Metal mount tags won’t mount completely flush up against the laptop. Ideally, a tag that is tapered on the edge would be the best to prevent catching on things, but most metal mount tags do not taper. An important consideration is whether to purchase a large tag with a longer read range or go with a more aesthetically pleasing tag that might have a shorter read range.
Placement of the tags may also be a factor for which type of tag to purchase. Many times, the lid is the only option, although sometimes a metal mount tag can be placed along the side without issue. This depends on how many ports and flat surface areas are available across the side of the laptop. Using a tag that is .05” or less thick would be the best option for a lid placement, to prevent catching on a laptop bag, but performance varies so it is important to test multiple options before settling on one.
Testing RFID tags are essential for all assets, because of the variation in read ranges that are documented by the vendor. If your assets are exposed to liquid or metal, even if the hand of an employee is blocking the tag, it can lead to an inaccurate result. Test different tags on all the different makes and models of laptops to ensure the tag or tags you choose will work in your environment. Placing the laptop in various locations and orientations is also important, as performance can also vary from one spot to another.
When security is required, a passive RFID tag will not be a viable option. They cannot read through metal or liquid, so it can be blocked when moving past a fixed reader. Using active RFID tags will provide you with better read rates because they have less interference from metal and liquid. Active tags can also provide motion and tamper detection, which is a much better option for security purposes. The downside is that the size of the tag will be much larger, as an active RFID tag has its own internal battery. Larger tags, however, can act as a deterrent to criminals.
Find out more about our RFID Asset Tracking solutions by clicking on our Solutions Overview.