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Savi-DoD Contract Brings Cellular Connectivity, Mobility to Asset Management

The U.S. Department of Defense has signed its latest RFID-IV contract with Savi as the sole provider for updated technology, including hybrid RFID and cellular tags, lighter infrastructure kits and interrogation capability for RFID transponders when readers are unavailable.
By Claire Swedberg

The addition of cellular functionality ensures that tags can be read, and thus assets located, even when they are not within range of an RFID reader, as long as there is a 2G, 3G or 4G cellular connection. Once the hybrid tag moves beyond an RFID reader, it can transmit location data at periodic, pre-set intervals—without requiring a wakeup signal—via cell networks in the area through which the tag is traveling.

The newer transponders not only offer cellular connectivity or a hybrid of cellular and active RFID, buy also come with backward compatibility. That means the tags will work with existing RFID hardware, Johnston says, allowing the DoD to maintain its current investment in hardware, even as it acquires new technology with greater capabilities.

Additionally, the transponders can be used as interrogators as well as transmitters, thereby requiring fewer reader and antenna installations at some locations. When one transponder emits its unique ID, that data can be captured by the next transponder, which can then forward that information to the next device in a daisy-chain fashion. For instance, Johnston says, a transponder in a truck could be used to capture data from other tags within that vehicle, and to then forward that data via a cellular connection or to another transponder.

Deployment kits will become lighter and less cumbersome as well, Johnston reports. The kits previously have weighed 62 pounds, she says, but "they are now under 35 pounds and can be moved by one person." The contents of the kit, however, will be the same, using lighter-weight materials and leveraging smaller technologies, such as the electronics used in laptop readers.

The DoD now has three levels of capacity, depending on the nature of the item being tracked. For highly sensitive goods, such as ammunition or nuclear weapons, satellite technology tracks each item's location and movement in real time, no matter where in the world it is located. For goods of high value, including fuel or meals (MREs), the RFID- and cellular-based data provides location information for goods everywhere there is a cellular or RFID network.

Lastly, Johnston says, for mops, brooms, toilet paper and other lower-value goods, RFID technology provides sufficient coverage for "last seen" portal-based data. In all cases, the location data is captured and managed by Savi Technology's Visibility software, and is then forwarded to the agency's own software, such as the DoD's RFI ITV server, where the data is managed and dispersed to appropriate authorities.

The new Savi transponders and kits are undergoing Hazard of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO) testing. Upon certification, they will be made available for purchase. Savi predicts that this will take place within four to six weeks.

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