Imation has announced a new tracking system that combines RFID tags with global positioning to overcome the problem of lost tape cartridges.

Imation said it will begin shipping its RFID tape-tracking technology in April. The technology embeds RFID chips in standard tape-cartridge labels, allowing them to be scanned either individually with a handheld device or by placing cases with up to 20 tapes inside on a scanning pad.

While the GPS tracking system will not be part of the initial product launch next month, over the next two months, Imation plans to announce when GPS technology will be available in order to locate cartridges no matter where they are.

Imation's DataGuard rf Tape Tracking System will be sold as kits that contain one or both scanning devices - stationary and handheld - tracking management software, and a newly designed tape cartridge carrying case that fits most tape cartridge formats, including LTO, DLT, 3590, 34x0, 9x40, 3592, and T10000.

"Imation’s ground-breaking DataGuard rf tape tracking system will help ensure [that] data centers are able to reliably account for their tape cartridges,” said Dianne McAdam, an analyst at The Clipper Group in Wellesley, Mass.

Tim Bjork, market development manager at Oakdale, Minn.-based Imation, said Imation's RFID technology is a first for tape cartridge tracking and security, embedding a tracking chip into a standard volume serial number (volser) label. "This not a battery powered tag, but a tag that is powered up from the system itself," Bjork said.

When tapes are scanned through either the Imation DataGuard Scan Station or Imation's DataGuard Mobile Scanner with docking station, the cartridge ID information is automatically recorded into a workstation. The individual cartridge or case of cartridges are then tracked using B&L Associates's VaultLedger or Vertices software. The reader system workstation automatically encrypts and posts the label information to the selected software, which interfaces with a user's own tape management system.

The scanning devices are also programmable to locate misfiled or out-of-sequence cartridges via the tape management software. Management software provides list and audit reporting capabilities, which can decrease the amount of time data centre personnel spend on managing tape libraries, Bjork said.

The VaultLedger or Vertices software can be set up for alerts, so that if a particular tape or group of tape are required for legal discovery, regulatory compliance or other purposes are needed, administrators can be alerted when they are scanned.

The DataGuard rf systems will be generally available in April and sold as kits that combine software and hardware, Imation said. Starter kits retail for just under $40,000 and include a handheld scanner and docking station, management software, 5,000 integrated RFID tags and 10 tape cartridge carrying cases.

Reporting by Lucas Mearian of Computerworld US