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NATO Samples New GPS-Based Tags, Expands Active RFID Use

Nations and partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can now purchase SCT Technology's active RFID- and GPS-based hardware and software directly from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, as its use of wireless technologies to track containers, palletized goods and vehicles throughout the supply chain grows.
By Claire Swedberg

NATO asset-tracking interoperability is critical, Gill explains, due to the complex nature of the supply chain. "The CMA solution SCT Technology provides serves two purposes," he states: it enables nations to track their own assets, and to share information for mission-essential equipment being transported from one location to another. For instance, he says, the sharing functionality gives NATO commanders visibility into where goods are located, so they can reroute and reprioritize their movement, when needed, and ensure they end up at their proper destination.

"If they need certain assets earlier than planned" at a specific location, Gill says, "the commander has visibility, through the CMA system, to identify the location of the equipment they need, and can reroute if necessary." Data sharing becomes even more critical as equipment changes hands from one nation to another, he notes. For example, Gill says, if a nation's container moves to another country's shipping site, the data collected from that location (using the other nation's readers) is automatically shared by CMA.

Due to the complexity of NATO's supply chain, a container might be loaded with goods that belong to several nations, palletized with active RFID tags attached to the corresponding pallets. As the products are loaded into the container, an RFID reader onsite can enable officers to identify the contents, as well as the nation of origin, and store them with the unique ID number of the container's tag.

The collected information is routed between partner nations and the NATO system via the NSPA's routing hub for the RFID-based asset-tracking data. The hub, operated and maintained by NSPA using the CMA platform, is located in Luxembourg and includes assets tracked via electronic data interchange (EDI), as well as RFID-tagged items.

NATO nations, throughout the years, have introduced passive UHF RFID tags on some assets, as well as traditional 433 MHz active RFID tags. Active systems provide several advantages for military operations, Gill notes. For one thing, active RFID tags only transmit in response to a polling reader, which means they can remain in radio-silent status when tagged assets move through a hostile area. In addition, the read range of the active RFID tags (about 100 meters) reduces the need for portal reader infrastructures that would be required for passive systems.

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