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Active RFID Tracks Alaskan Cargo

Shipping firm Horizon Lines has gained total visibility over all its cargo shipments to Alaska with an active RFID system that tracks shipping containers in terminals, on ships, in DCs, and as they travel on highways. Grocer Safeway uses data from the system to track incoming goods to its Alaskan supermarkets.
Jan 23, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

January 23, 2007—Cargo containers bound for Alaska on ships from Horizon Lines will be tracked with active RFID to provide supply chain visibility as they travel by ship, train, and truck. The shipping company announced yesterday that it has completed installation of RFID infrastructure at terminals, distribution centers, and highway locations for its Alaska trade lane and continues to add active RFID tags to its cargo boxes. Supermarket chain Safeway is using the system to track shipments to its Alaskan stores on an ongoing basis, following a successful trial with Horizon.

"We had good visibility of our cargo when it was in our terminals, on our vessels, and when traveling by rail. We'd lose it when it went on trucks," Horizon Lines' CIO Rick Kessler told RFID Update. Kessler is also CEO of Horizon Services Group, a subsidiary of the shipping company that provides technology and consulting services to the transportation industry. "Now we have total visibility because of the readers we've installed throughout Alaskan highways."

Safeway and Horizon Lines each use the data from the RFID network to plan labor and operations at their facilities. For example, Kessler said there is an unattended roadside RFID reader on the highway approximately an hour away from the Safeway supermarket in North Pole, Alaska. When a truck carrying tagged cargo passes the location, the reader records the event and automatically sends notification to the Safeway store, which then has employees ready to unload the shipment. Safeway also has readers installed at some of its locations to track inbound and outbound shipments.

"Visibility helps our operations, and our customers' operations too," said Kessler.

Horizon Lines installed 30 readers at its facilities and along highways, tagged approximately 5,100 boxes, and has received data from more than 75,000 highway reads since implementation began last June, according to project leader Greg Skinner. The system uses 915 MHz active tags and readers provided by Identec Solutions.

Horizon Lines uses the system to track all its Alaskan cargo and is in discussions with other customers to implement visibility applications like Safeway's. The company also integrates data from RFID read points into its various tracking systems and services.

"Ultimately we'd like to expand this system to cover all our trade lanes, and we are working with the lower 48 states to put readers at more highway locations," said Kessler. Horizon Lines' routes cover the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Active technology is a high-growth segment of the RFID industry, and supply chain visibility is a growing application. Last week research firm IDTechEx designated active RFID as one of a handful of "booming" areas of RFID, citing predictions that the active market will grow from $550 million last year to $6.78 billion in 2016 (see IDTechEx Identifies "Booming" Areas for RFID). Zebra Technologies expressed its confidence in the space this month by acquiring active RFID vendor WhereNet for $126 million (see Zebra Acquires Active RFID Provider WhereNet).

A string of deployments announced in recent months adds credibility to the market enthusiasm for active RFID. In Europe, retailer METRO Group announced it would track inbound containers from Asia (see Metro and Savi Launch Container-Tracking RFID Pilot); automaker Jaguar announced a deployment to track parts shipments to the U.S. (see Jaguar Signs On As Savi Extends RFID Network to UK); and 3PL Jobstl announced a container tracking system for its retail customer Vogele (see European 3PL Turns to RFID for Container Tracking).
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