A group of students visiting Point 5 on Tuesday morning were roped in to help CMS conduct tests on infrastructure designed to monitor the flow of underground visits during the Open Days. It uses long-range ultra-high-frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) chips and this successful test means that the 20 RFID gates installed all over CERN can now be considered operational.
When CMS proposed the system a year ago, it was with a different aim in mind. Zoltan Szillasi, a CMS collaborator who helps organize CMS visits and manage site safety, says, “If our personnel want to enter the underground caverns for work, we have to badge in. Our presence in the caverns is recorded and controlled. For large groups of visitors, though, we only make an entry in a notebook near the lifts, and it is the responsibility of the guides to sign them in and out.”
Knowing exactly how many people are underground is very important, particularly in case of an emergency as it helps the fire brigade conduct successful evacuations. In emergencies, a small human error – counting an incorrect number when making the entry or forgetting to sign out – could prove fatal. “We wanted to implement a system that is as automatic as it can be,” says Szillasi.
“Such a system would be useful for other sites as well, so we suggested implementing it for all underground visit during the Open Days,” says Szillasi.
Commercially available RFID-based tracking systems were too complex and expensive for CERN’s basic needs. So Szillasi and Francois Briard from GS developed a cheaper and simpler solution in-house that will also be used for ticketing on the Open Days.
To test the tracking setup, two RFID gates were installed at Point 5; one on the surface near the lift entry, and one on the lowermost level, near the “materials access device” or MAD. On Tuesday, 29 visitors and CMS members wore special identification badges with RFID chips on them and passed through both gates before returning to the surface.
In the aboveground CMS Control Room, Szillasi checked the number of people passing through the gates. “I counted 29 in, 29 out!” he said when the CMS team returned.
On the Open Days, our underground guests will be given special badges equipped with RFID chips which will also serve as unique souvenirs as all visitors are welcome to take these badges home with them.