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By Beth Bacheldor

Defense Dept. Seeks Info Regarding Use of RFID to Track Soldiers' Remains

The Logistics Enabling Support Division of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTC) has partnered with Arlington National Cemetery to solicit information from individuals working in government, industry and academia regarding the use of RFID or RFID-like solutions to track caskets and cremation urns from the time they arrive at the cemetery until six months after they are interred.

Arlington National Cemetery, located just outside of Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their family members throughout its 624 acres. Approximately 6,900 funeral services are conducted there annually.

The resultant request for information (RFI), released on Feb. 4, states that its primary purpose is to seek information about existing technologies (or those with reasonable modifications) that can be used to meet the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for tracking capabilities at Arlington National Cemetery. The RFI will also be used to identify qualified contractors able to meet the DOD's requirements, determine the appropriate contract type (that is, firm fixed-price, cost-reimbursement or time and materials), understand commercial pricing practices, and gather other readily available market information. Responses are due by Mar. 2.

The RFI identifies a number of features that the USTC would like to have in the tracking capability. The tracking tags, according to the RFI, should be small and compact, and a cemetery representative must be able to quickly secure them to the side of a casket or cremation urn. The tag must feature user read-write memory, with up to 10 data elements of information. Each data element must comprise fewer than 40 characters that the cemetery employee, using a handheld device, will write to (and store) data upon the arrival of the casket or cremation urn. The tag is to remain in the casket or urn, and the tag data must be readable at subsurface depths of up to 9 feet, as well as in varying soil types and under a variety of conditions, for at least six months. In addition, the tag should operate in listen mode for any signal, and should only transmit to the correct or desired query signal.

Cemetery representatives currently use Apple iPad or iPhone devices, accessing an already-built app that shares and displays data linked to an information technology (IT) system of record at Arlington National Cemetery. As such, the DOD would like the iPad or iPhone to be able to communicate with the tag. However, the RFID stipulates, if an intermediate tag reader is required, that device must be compatible with an iPad or iPhone. In addition, the DOD wants the solution to be flexible enough to allow a cemetery representative to read and edit information on the tag. Furthermore, the RFI specifies that no tags, markers or other devices should be located aboveground, or between the ground and the tag that is on the casket or urn inside the concrete grave line underground, and that no fixed interrogators should be placed throughout the cemetery grounds.

More information about the RFI can be found at the FedBizOpps.gov website.

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