R. Fink | Backup tapes get some backup

The Packet Rat'Commentary

'Have you seen my keys?' That all-too-familiar cry in the wilderness came from the Rat as he rummaged around one morning looking for his impossible-to-lose lanyard of a hundred keys ' which he inevitably misplaces five or six times a week.

'Did you look in the bucket by the door?' his wife responded.

'Of course I did,' he said, going back to the bucket again.

And the keys were there.

'Never mind.'

'Have you ever considered putting a GPS on your keys?' the wirebiter's spouse shouted, laughing.

Although the cyberrodent is not necessarily about to invest in military-grade Global Positioning System gear just to keep track of his keys, another recent application of that sort has gotten his attention ' a tool that can keep track of where those darned backup tapes have gone.

Fujifilm Recording Media, the manufacturer of various backup tapes, has teamed with QinetiQ, a defense and security technology company, to create the Fujifilm Tape Tracker ' a sort of LoJack for missing sets of backup tapes.

Looking like a Linear Tape-Open backup cartridge, the Tape Tracker is a highly sensitive geolocation device that uses cell phone networks to call home with its location.

That means that if it gets lost en route to off-site storage, it can be retrieved ' hopefully with the rest of the tapes in its case.

The Tape Tracker system allows the people who worry about where tapes go to know where those tapes are at all times ' whether they are being shipped somewhere or sitting still.

The little homing devices are 1,000 times more sensitive than standard commercial GPS equipment and specially designed to accurately locate themselves even when buried under other media cases in a truck or warehouse.

Like faithful husbands on a business trip, the trackers can report home regularly with their location.

Unlike most husbands, however, their progress can be shown on a Web-based map application, even drilling down with satellite imagery to show whether the tapes are in a warehouse or, say, an overeager analyst's house.

For those more concerned with making sure tapes stay put than whether they're straying, the trackers can also be configured to activate when they sense movement and alert managers if they leave a tightly defined set of geographic boundaries configured by the software.

This type of technology has a lot of potential beyond just backup tapes.

It could be used for laptop PCs carrying sensitive information, for example. But the wirebiter's immediate concerns were more domestic.

'I wish I had one of those for our sons,' the Rat mused as he looked over the specs for the Tape Tracker.

'If I could only embed it in their iPods'' 'Well, that wouldn't work,' his wife quipped. 'They're always losing their iPods anyway. Ah, I see your point.'

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