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DOD Bundle Targets Small Companies

SmartCode has put together a low-cost solution to enable quick compliance to RFID mandates from the U.S. Department of Defense.
By Jonathan Collins
Dec 15, 2005With the U.S. Department of Defense's RFID mandate set to start Jan. 1, a slew of small and midsize companies will have to start tagging their shipments to the DOD if they fall within the mandate's requirements.

Targeting those DOD suppliers, RFID specialist SmartCode, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has put together its low-cost DOD EPC Compliance Solution bundle. Priced at $1,595, the package comprises a single UHF EPC Gen 1 Class 0 and 1 interrogator (reader), 100 EPC tags, software to support both shipment tagging and tag testing and the DOD Compliance Booklet. The latter explains the department's RFID regulations.

According to SmartCode, the DOD mandate will impact many small companies, some of which ship only low volumes of goods to the DOD. Although low-volume shipments will require tags, investing in a sophisticated RFID network would be an unwarranted expense for such vendors.

"These suppliers will have to start using RFID, but they aren't like Coke or Unilever, who were impacted by the Wal-Mart mandate. They don't have $300,000 to spend on setting up an RFID system. Some have as few as a 1,000 shipments a year [that will require tagging]," says Roy Apple, VP of business development at SmartCode.

SmartCode believes its package can be set up and integrated into shipping operations by customers in a slap-and-ship method in less than 14 days.

The interrogator included in the kit is firmware-upgradeable to EPC Gen 2 and connects to a host PC with a USB/serial port connection. SmartCode says it has developed software allowing tags to be read and programmed with the DOD EPC codes, then verified before shipping. By using blank, non-preprogrammed tags that can be programmed as needed, SmartCode explains, companies can keep ongoing costs to a minimum.

"There is no reason to buy preprogrammed tags. They are more expensive, and suppliers have to be able to verify tags before shipment to meet DOD requirements. If they have to read tags to verify them, it makes sense to program tags as well," says Apple.

Customers can integrate the software developed by SmartCode for the kit to work with databases and other applications using J2ME, XML, text or other data structures.

The DOD mandate requires that its 60,000 suppliers use passive RFID tags for shipments by 2007. Starting Jan. 1, 2006, suppliers will be required to tag cases and pallets of subsistence and comfort items, packaged petroleum, lubricants, oils, preservatives and chemicals, construction and barrier material, ammunition of all types, and pharmaceutical and medical material shipped to 32 depots throughout the United States and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) distribution centers in San Joaquin, Calif., and Susquehanna, Penn.
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