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US Tests Cargo Security System

Six-month pilot by the departments of defense and transportation will use e-seals and satellite communications.
Dec 17, 2002Dec. 18, 2002 - With the threat of terrorism still very real, the United States government is continuing to test technologies that can be used to secure both military and commercial cargo. Last week, the departments of transportation and defense announced that they have engaged PAR Technology Corp. (NYSE: PTC) and Savi Technology to test the ability of electronic seals and satellite communications to secure goods in transit.


Savi's LaCorte
During the six-month European Container Security Test and Equipment Tracking Demonstration, cargo containers bound for Europe will be sealed with a Savi's two-way RFID bolt seal and a 410 active (battery-powered) tag that has information about the contents of each container. The tags will transmit signals either to fix readers already set up by the Department of Defense (DOD) or to PAR's cellular and GPS-based tracking system, known as Cargo-Mate.

Lykes Lines will ship the intermodal cargo containers by truck, rail and ship from the Defense Logistics Agency supply facility in Cumberland, Virginia, to a DLA distribution center in Germersheim, Germany. The security, status and location of the shipments will be monitored in real-time as they are transported by truck and rail within the U.S. and Europe. Eventually, containers will be tracked in real-time during the ocean voyage as well.

The goal of the test is to determine whether the seals can provide valuable real-time information, via satellite, about whether or not a cargo container has been opened without authorization. The test also aims to determine whether the technologies can work together to improve end-to-end cargo visibility, operational efficiency, and asset utilization for both the government and commercial sectors.

The DOT ran an e-seals test earlier this year in which goods packed in a cargo container were sealed at a factory in Japan. Each time the seal passed a reader -- at the port in Japan, at the Seattle-Tacoma port, at the border with Canada -- the seal was read and provided feedback on whether or not the container had been opened.

This new test is more sophisticated, according to Blair LaCorte, Savi's executive VP of business development. "This takes it to a new level," he says. "This test is it is integrating multiple systems together. It is looking at communicating what's in the container as well as whether the container has been tampered with. It is also looking at how to communicate on fixed-reader networks and satellite simultaneously."

Savi's software platform can transmit data to the seals as well as receive information from them. So, someone scanning a cargo container arriving at the port in Rotterdam can know who sealed the container and when. The person can also get information on a handheld reader about who has the authority to open the container and whether it needs to be opened in a secure location.

The military buys tons of supplies from commercial suppliers. One of its concerns is that terrorists could inject biological agents into a shipment of food. This test is expected to provide feedback on how these technologies, which are not knew, could be used by commercial companies working for the military.

Savi also hopes that it will prove its contention that these technologies not only make sense from a security standpoint, but create efficiencies for shippers as well. "If you have a dumb RFID seal, it just sends out a signal at regular intervals," says LaCorte. "With a two-way seal, I can send out a signal and have every container with certain types of items inside to tell me where they are right now. That makes it much easier to find a few containers in a yard with thousands of them."
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