Tagged. Radio-frequency chips hide inside power tools and track usage. (Photos by Tudor Hampton for ENR)

Breaches in jobsite security are expensive annoyances and two power-tool makers are blazing the trail for anti-theft devices.

Robert Bosch Tool Corp., Mount Prospect, Ill., has partnered with ToolWatch Corp., Englewood, Colo., for a new security system that uses tiny, radio frequency tags to track small tools.

Another new sentry comes from DeWalt, Towson, Md. Its cellular-based "Sitelock" monitor uses jobsite sensors that superintendents switch on after workers have gone home for the day.

Placed inside tool housings, Bosch’s RFID tags feed information to a handheld scanner, which uploads data into a database. In the future, Bosch plans to offer electronic gates that sound alarms when unauthorized users walk through, says John Doherty, product manager.

Tool serial numbers are captured and uploaded into enterprise software, which tracks the tool and who is using it. The tags have a limited range of about 10 ft. They add 1 to 2% to the cost of new tools, but contractors can order extra, $5 chips and install them inside older tools.

The tags work for off-brands, too. "No one wants to buy a tracking system that only works for Bosch tools," says Don Kafka, ToolWatch president.

The $15,000 tracking software, ordered from ToolWatch, is a big investment. But for ToolWatch customers already using its barcode tracker, an RFID upgrade will cost them $4,000, Kafka explains.

Sitelock, which is cheaper and cel-lular-based, works on large and small equipment. The DeWalt system includes a base station, sensors and an alarm.

A cable-lock sensor wraps around heavy equipment like skid-steers and trips when someone tries to cut the cable. Container sensors have vibration alerts. Motion sensors watch over jobsite trailers. When a breach is detected, the base station calls a live operator or sends a text message to a manager’s cell phone.

Sitelock costs $1,000 for the base station and between $100 and $200 for each sensor. Text messaging costs $30 per month. The live-operator service costs an extra $40 per month. Sensors have a range of 2,000 ft.