Old computers RIP

Aging computers at federal agencies now have an environmentally safe place to spend their final days when they become obsolete.

Environmental Protection Agency officials have awarded $9 million in contracts to small businesses to help agencies dispose of old computers and used electronic equipment in a manner that prevents toxic material from leaking into the air or water.

The governmentwide acquisition contract for Recycling Electronics and Asset Disposition services is the first organized effort of its kind.

U.S. government officials buy 7 percent of the world's computers. And until now, it was anyone's guess what officials did with old ones. They often were stashed in storage closets, warehouses, landfills or overseas facilities. As part of the new federal program, contractors must maintain an audit trail of the equipment's final destination and document reclamation and recycling efforts.

RFID really arrives

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been discussed for tracking cows to detect those that may have been infected with mad cow disease and monitoring cargo from overseas to make sure terrorists aren't smuggling weapons into the United States.

But in one of the more unusual moves in the high-tech world, Social Security Administration officials will soon begin using RFID tags to track orders for SSA forms and pamphlets.

Like their counterparts at Wal-Mart and the Defense Department, SSA officials have discovered many advantages in using RFID technology to supplement and, in some cases, replace handheld bar code scanners for entering data into warehouse management systems.

Unlike bar codes, which typically must be manually scanned with readers, RFID tags store information in a microchip that transmits data automatically to RFID readers.

By using RFID tags and readers, SSA officials expect to eliminate costly, time-consuming errors in maintaining inventory and fulfilling orders for hundreds of agency pamphlets and forms.

"Certainly accuracy saves money," said John Spencer, director of SSA's Office of Supply and Warehouse Management. "If we don't process the order correctly, that results in another order to be placed, packed and shipped."

To make it happen, SSA officials have built an RFID tunnel lined with antennas for reading RFID tags on containers at the shipping and receiving docks of the office's headquarters in Woodlawn, Md.

A change of place

The Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International is changing venues for its monthly meetings because it outgrew its previous location.

Beginning with the Jan. 27 breakfast meeting, the chapter will feature a panel of prominent chief information officers at a new venue: the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda. It's near the White Flint Metro station. n

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