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Warwickshire College

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IT Asset Audit

warwickshire-collegeWith over 18,500 students and 1,700 staff needing support for both administration and learning facilities, Warwickshire College Information Services has a significant number of IT assets that have to be controlled across their multiple sites.

Historically, systems used to audit assets were time consuming and, the College felt, not always accurate. The College has made significant investments to support courses and apprenticeships in technology-led trades and recently invested in additional 1200 PC’s for students. To help improve the control of their IT assets, Warwickshire College decided to introduce electronic tagging for IT assets. They chose CoreRFID to work with them on the selection and supply of the right technology and applications to deliver their IT asset management solution.

An Entrepreneurial College

Warwickshire College is one of the largest colleges of further and higher education in the Midlands region. Spread over six centres with 1,700 staff and 18,500 students, the college offers over 2000 courses every year in a wide range of subjects. The College started life in 1996 when Mid-Warwickshire College in Leamington and the Moreton Morrell Centre merged.

Warwick Campus uses CoreRFID for IT asset management
Part of the Warwickshire College Campus. The CoreRFID solution supports six separate sites.

Mergers with Rugby College, Henley-in-Arden College with their specialisms in sport, fashion, textiles and hair and beauty, and then in August 2007 with Pershore College, Centre of Horticultural Excellence, created a further education institute spreading across two counties. Now, Warwickshire College is the largest provider of apprenticeship training in the West Midlands with more than 1,100 apprentices each year in more than 30 subject areas, covering trades such as photo imaging, food manufacturing and health, and social care.

In common with other colleges, Warwickshire College has the twin problems of controlling the IT assets used by its administrative staff and those used by students. In addition the College has a large number of items of audio visual equipment, especially those units used in the College’s newly extended Leamington centre where technology is used to promote entrepreneurial skills.

The College’s original system for IT assets management was – like those of many other organisations – based on printed labels stuck on to equipment. Serial numbers from labels were transcribed manually to spreadsheets creating a record of what equipment was where in the college. Inevitably the audit process of checking labels and updating spreadsheets was both time consuming and prone to error, causing unnecessary costs and providing inaccurate information on the whereabouts of assets.

“RFID is an ideal tool to help us control assets across our many locations. CoreRFID has been an ideal technology partner, helping us in both selection and implementation.”  – Paul Maddock, Director Information Services, Warwickshire College

RFID Based Solution

Warwickshire College turned to CoreRFID to help implement a new system for auditing IT Assets. CoreRFID proposed a system based on the use of ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID tags attached to the assets. These carry an identity code that can be linked to each specific asset and can be read quickly and accurately by a handheld computer.

The technology selected for the system included a compact, robust, handheld computer (the ATiD AB700) to could capture the details of assets and their location together with specialised tags designed specifically to cope with the challenges of IT asset tagging. The design of the selected tag (the xerafy Titanium) makes it suitable for use on both metal and non-metal surfaces.

It has a slim form factor that allows it to be attached to small, portable devices. The xerafy Titanium tag has a read range of around 1 metre which is sufficient for applications where it is important to identify the specific item being checked and with a weight of only 3 grams it can be used on devices like mobile phones and tablet computers without interfering with their use. Initially the system is being implemented for 500 laptop computers but over time the system will be extended to all IT assets outside the datacentre.

The Asset Tracking Application

A software application running on a the ATiDAB700 handheld computer / RFID reader is used to collect data about the location of tags and assets. The IT asset tracking application used by Warwickshire College is one of a number of similar Windows Mobile software solutions developed by CoreRFID.

In common with all of CoreRFID’s mobile applications, the focus is on simplicity of operation with a minimum of data entry and menu choices needed to achieve the required result. For the Warwickshire College system the user simply has to identify themselves with their initials and the location where assets are being scanned.

The systems detects tags in the surrounding area and lists them on the screen of the hand-held device, building up a date/time stamped list of sites, item numbers and the identity of the asset auditor. At the end of each day, or whenever needed, data can be off-loaded as a standard comma separated variable (CSV) file to other systems. The data in this file is then used to update the College’s asset register or to initiate searches for missing equipment as necessary.

The Benefits

Warwickshire College aims to achieve:

  • More accurate IT asset management records
  • Reduced administration costs.
  • Shorter asset audit time.