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The Next Big App for the Military: RFID

To automate its IT asset-management capabilities, the U.S. military should take an aggressive approach to further leverage radio frequency identification technologies.
By Peter Collins
Jun 04, 2017

In the 21st century, we have seen an explosion in the growth of computers and digital equipment. The U.S. military has tried its best to embrace the Information Age with both arms. Modern warfighters now have an array of digital communication tools and equipment available to them, via smartphones, tablets and laptops, to night-vision goggles and navigation equipment. The modern soldiers are supported by their command and control centers that have an even larger amount of fixed and portable digital tools and equipment at their disposal.

The development of these digital communication, navigation and information systems has been instrumental to the success of the modern U.S. military. It seems likely that, in the future, there will only be more reliance on this kind of information technology (IT) equipment. The military (along with the rest of our modern society) is committed to utilizing computers, mobile devices and other IT assets that will give them the tools to do their jobs better and faster.

Logistical Challenges
Of course, the downside is that all of this IT equipment comes at a cost. IT assets obviously incur an upfront cost that will hit the budgets; but, maybe more important are the ongoing logistical costs. U.S. Congress mandates that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) maintain accountability on each and every asset in its possession. Tracking the location and movement of all of the computer equipment in any one of the branches of the military (let alone the entire armed services and the organizations that serve them) is a massive undertaking.

To further compound and complicate this issue, many of these computers and IT assets contain highly sensitive data and need to be stored in secure areas. Often, this same digital equipment needs to be mission-ready—which includes being fully charged, operable, compatible and in a portable storage container for transport, ready to go at a moment's notice. Maintaining frequent and regular accountability of the data and the storage devices, along with managing the location and the readiness of this equipment, is a major security issue, in addition to being a formidable logistical challenge.

Digital assets are often embedded in larger assemblies, and many times end up being very difficult to gain access to. Unfortunately, even though they are a component or subcomponent of a larger system, they still need to be accounted for. There is also a concern, in some circles, for authenticating the integrity of the hardware and to prevent the infiltration of counterfeit computer components into the supply chain.

The DoD has an enormous amount of computers and digital equipment for which they need to maintain accountability. The U.S. military does not have the luxury to perform manual inventories on their digital equipment—there are just too many items and not enough time. An organization that is the size of the Department of Defense needs to be able to automate its IT asset-management process in order to maintain accountability, track each individual asset and fulfill the required annual audits.

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