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Printer-Encoder Order Represents New DOD Milestone

Lowry Computer's $8.7 million contract for 1,804 EPC Gen 2 RFID printer-encoders will enable defense distribution depots to extend RFID use further down the supply chain.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 11, 2008The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) continues to make strides in its deployment of EPC Gen 2 RFID technology to track hundreds of thousands of shipments covering a wide variety of assets, from weapons to rations. Late last month, the department awarded a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract for RFID equipment and installation services to Lowry Computer Products, a Brighton, Mich., maker and systems integrator of EPC RFID products and solutions.

Specifically, the $8.7 million, five-year contract was handed down by the DOD's Defense Logistic Agency's (DLA) Defense Distribution Center (DDC), which is the Defense Department's combat-support agency and the DLA's lead center for distribution. The DDC operates 26 distribution depots worldwide and is responsible for the receipt, storage, issue, packing, preservation and transportation of more than 4 million items.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lowry Computer is supplying the DDC with thermal-transfer tag and label RFID printer-encoders from Irvine, Calif.-based Printronix, as well as providing training and warranty coverage. By the end of April, says Steve Lowry, Lowry Computer's executive VP, the company expects to have shipped 1,804 of the RFID printer-encoders, which work with EPC Gen 2 passive tags, to 21 locations around the world. "We have shipped most of the units," Lowry says. "The installation started in January, and will be completed in April. Everything has gone exceedingly well."

On its own, the contract may not seem significant. The DOD, after all, has awarded several large-scale contracts to various RFID providers. In early February, Savi Technology announced that the department had extended the time and increased the value of its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) II contract. The contract has been extended to Jan. 31, 2009, and its ceiling increased by about $60 million—to $483 million—for Savi's active 433 MHz RFID products and services. What's more, the Defense Department has been phasing in the use of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags since 2004, when it first began laying the foundation of EPC RFID infrastructure so it could start receiving tagged pallets and cases from suppliers, as part of its RFID requirements that took effect in January 2005.

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