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ExploTrack Launches e-Pedigree Platform for Explosives

The company says at least one U.S. explosives manufacturer is implementing its system, which uses RFID and GPS technology to track explosives and detonators.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 06, 2006By the end of June, at least one explosives manufacturer in the United States will be implementing a system using RFID and GPS technology to track explosives and detonators as they proceed through its supply chain, according to the system's developer and provider, ExploTrack. This system will reportedly monitor, in real time, each unit of explosive material from its creation on an assembly line to its delivery to a customer.

RFID systems developer IPico is providing its Dual Frequency IP-X RFID tags and readers for this implementation, along with GPS hardware and software. IPico's technology is integrated with ExploTrack's platform, consisting of Smart Explosives, Smart Detonators, Smart Cases and Smart Magazines. This enables the tracking of explosives at the pallet, case and unit levels. With IPico's dual-frequency system, the tags are energized by a 125 kHz low-frequency (LF) signal from the interrogator, and respond with a 7 MHz high-frequency (HF) signal. Thus, tags can communicate with the reader at frequencies where RF propagation occurs at such low power levels that it will not exceed safety limits and accidentally detonate the explosives.

ExploTrack managing partner Bob Morhard
Currently, the explosive industry tracks its products on paper. There is no automated system to identify the location or source of individual detonators, according to ExploTrack managing partner Bob Morhard. This fact limits law enforcement efforts in forensic investigations. There is also no mechanism to track people who come into contact with the detonators and explosives. With the ExploTrack solution, the explosives industry will be able to provide more security, as well as a tool for law enforcement in the event of a terrorist act.

The hybrid RFID and GPS system was tested on Jan. 17 at Vet's Explosives, a Litchfield, Conn., explosives distributor specializing in urban blasting. The test followed inert explosives through the supply chain, from Vet's factory to an active blasting site in the Harlem section of New York City. According Morhard, this is the first time an RFID and GPS tracking system has been used to track explosives on a commercial level.

The security system begins with the application of a dual-frequency RFID tag on each explosive device, such as a detonator or a cartridge of dynamite. The tag comes with a unique factory-burned ID number, according to IPico's U.S. vice president of business development, Rob Ufford. Each tag's ID number is read as the tag is applied to a device, when the device is packaged in a carton and again as the cartons are placed in a case, which also has an RFID tag associated with the ID numbers of the items packed inside. As the cases are placed on a pallet, the tags are interrogated again, and a tag applied to the pallet is associated with the cases and units inside. The tags have a read range up to about 2 meters. Both handheld and fixed IPico readers are used to read the tags.

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