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DOD Seeks New Active-Tag Suppliers

The U.S. Department of Defense has issued a request for information to vendors able to provide 433.92 MHz RFID equipment compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard.
By Laurie Sullivan
Tags: Standards
Nov 30, 2006The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is pushing to expand its sources for active RFID tags and readers. Earlier this month, the government agency issued a request for information (RFI) from vendors equipped to provide RFID equipment operating at 433.92 MHz and compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard.

The request for information will assist the DOD in developing a "competitive acquisition for active RFID devices," says Lt. Col. Patrick Burden, an officer at Product Manager, Joint-Automatic Identification Technology (PM J-AIT), part of the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems at Fort Belvoir, Va. Currently, the DOD's primary supplier of 433.92 MHz RFID hardware is Savi Technology, which was awarded RFID-II Contract DABL01-03-D-1002 on Jan. 21, 2003 (see Savi Wins $90M RFID Contract).

The government is now considering issuing a follow-on competitive contract. "The intent is to provide the draft specification to interested vendors to help determine if they can produce and deliver active RFID devices that are interoperable with the existing infrastructure that meets ISO standards," Burden says.

The DOD's current requirements for active RFID transponders include a memory size of 128 kilobytes, an unobstructed read distance of at least 300 feet and a battery life of four years. In addition, the department seeks transponders equipped with sensors (humidity, temperature, shock and light) and built to report out-of-tolerance incidences.

Interested vendors have until Dec. 15 to respond to the RFI and must be able to demonstrate sufficient maturity of their products (prototypical at minimum) to be fully functional and compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard. Such demonstrations must occur at the AIT Laboratory in Tobyhanna, Pa., no later than March 31, 2007.

Ratified in 2004 as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 18000-7 is based on patents held by Savi Technology. Some industry analysts and experts say this puts the wholly owned Lockheed Martin subsidiary in a dominant position with the DOD.

The department uses active RFID technology to track goods and cargo containers worldwide at more than 2,000 depots, posts and ports. Each week, interrogators deployed at these facilities read at least 100,000 active 433 MHz tags, Burden says, writing to more than 16,000 active tags.

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