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RFID Adds to Security at Virginia Port Authority

Savi Networks and GE Security tapped to protect all three of the port authority's terminals.
By Claire Swedberg
Savi Networks began providing RFID technology at ports in April 2005. Savi provides the SaviTrak information service, which allows shippers, logistics-service providers and transportation companies to manage and monitor their shipments over a secure Internet connection. The SaviTrak information service is integrated with an open technology platform that receives and processes data feeds from standards-based RFID technologies, as well as bar codes, EPC-compliant passive RFID tags and GPS.

Similarly, the CommerceGuard system provides tracking information to its customers, and to customs agents. If a container has been tampered with, for instance, the CSD sends an alert to the RFID reader when it comes within range of the port. That data is then provided to the container shipper, who can then halt and inspect the container. CommerceGuard also provides information services through a secure Internet database that a shipping customer, the port or government agents can access with a password.

The port is using both Savi Network and GE Security systems in the effort to reach out to as many RFID-enabled customers as possible, Merkle says. Savi and GE Security, he explains, seem to be the major players in this arena. Only a small percentage of carriers and cargo owners are currently tagging their containers or products with RFID tags, but the numbers are growing. To make it worthwhile for shipping companies to use the tags, Savi's Fritts points out, there needs to be a significant number of RFID-enabled ports.

Price is an issue, as well: RFID tags for containers can cost from $10 to $100, depending on the features they include.

Savi Networks is currently focusing on introducing RFID technology at the highest-volume ports, as well as those with special security issues, such as high smuggling or crime rates. The Port of Virginia is the third-highest-volume port on the U.S. East Coast, moving about 96,000 containers monthly.

The trend toward RFID use for port security may be further fueled by the Port Security Act of 2006, signed into law on Oct. 13. This act provides regulatory incentives and clarifies best practices and adherence to international standards that enhance the security of containerized cargo shipments bound for the United States.

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