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Consortium Aims to Secure Trade

Nine transportation, technology and supply chain companies have united to try to improve transportation security and economics.
By Bob Violino
May 19, 2003May 20, 2003 - Nine transportation, technology and supply chain companies have formed a consortium, called the Innovative Trade Network (ITN), to develop a new international framework for securing global trade. RFID is one of the key technologies the consortium will be examining.
ITN's Kothmann

ITN says its objective is to create the infrastructure and a business model that allows "all nations, ports, technology providers, and logistics providers to play on a level playing field that improves economics while addressing security issues associated with commercial shipping." The groups says that it will also incorporate technology from companies outside its founding members.

"TransCore is responsible for determining the front-end data capture for each project – whether it uses active or passive tags, for example," says Tim Bickmore, senior vice president of business development at TransCore, a Dallas, Texas-based RFID vendor. "But if someone else on the team suggests another companies' technologies, they can also be incorporated."

RFID has already been deployed in existing security initiatives, most notably the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SST) initiative (see Ports to Adopt RFID Security System). SST uses RFID technology originally developed by Savi Technology for the US Department of Defense. ITN maintains the scope of its framework far exceeds SST.

"SST is just focused on containers and not bulk cargo or trans-border shipments by rail or trucking, which ITN provides," says Dean Kothmann, ITN spokesman and BV Solutions Group's chief development officer.

ITN also maintains that given its international focus, it will be more driven than SST to use international technology standards. "The SST could work within our initiative but there would have to be an agreed international standard for the active seal tag technology that it uses," says TransCore's Bickmore.

Some of the RFID infrastructure needed to secure trade is already in place, according to Bickmore. "There is an existing container tracking standard in ISO 10374, and all the railcars in North America and China are already RFID tagged," he says.

However, he estimates that less than 10 percent of containers and container-carrying trucks are tagged and that RFID itself will have to interact with other systems to complete the security framework globally. "RFID is not a holistic tracking system and will probably be used in conjunction with cellular or GPS systems when tracking high-value or high-risk items," Bickmore says.

Despite the importance of RFID, ITN emphasizes that it's offering an open and standardized framework that can deploy any number of technologies as appropriate. "RFID, like any technology is just an enabler, that’s all," says Kothmann. "It will have a huge role because it allows low-cost tracking, but it's not a silver bullet on its own."

BV Solutions, a designer of engineering and operation information systems and processes, will act as the prime co-coordinator for ITN bids and deployments. The other companies making up the group are Calspan UB Research Center, Cargill, Cotecna, FreightDesk Technologies, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, TransCore and Veridian. -- By Jonathan Collins

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