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EPCglobal Transportation and Logistics Pilot Takes Visibility to a Global Level

The program's second phase, the organization says, illustrates how EPC-based technology can be utilized to track goods as they are transported by air, sea, road and rail, from China to the United States.
By Claire Swedberg
RFID tracking commenced in China, where the tires were manufactured, packaged and loaded onto pallets. At that point, the manufacturer printed and encoded the Gen 2 tags with a unique EPC ID number, applied them to pallets and read the ID numbers using Sense Technology handheld interrogators. Once the pallets were loaded into a cargo container, 2.4 GHz and 433 MHz active and EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tags from a variety of vendors—which would be compared and contrasted for performance in the pilot—were attached to the container and read. The container was then closed, and a mechanical seal was applied, the ID number of which was input and then associated with the passive and active tags.

The container was then transported for shipment, passing several fixed interrogators that read all six container tags at a gate on its way to the ocean shipping terminal. When the container arrived at the Shanghai port terminal, another set of three fixed RFID readers captured that arrival as the container passed through the terminal facility gate and was then moved into a marshalling yard (container storage area). The tags were not read at the point of loading the vessel, however, because the research group was unable to secure permission to do so from Shanghai port terminal operators.

When the materials arrived at the Long Beach ocean terminal, the container's tags were read once more by one fixed reader as they were unloaded from the vessel, using another set of fixed interrogators. Three readers then captured the container's arrival at the assigned bay at the port's cross-dock facility.

When the mechanical seal was broken prior to unloading, its ID number was manually entered as the tags were interrogated, and the seal was de-associated from the passive and active tags attached to the container. As the container doors were opened and the unloading process initiated, the pallets' passive tags were also de-associated from the passive and active container tags. The cargo was then unloaded and awaited pickup by a separate trailer as part of the cross-docking activity.

Prior to pickup from the Long Beach port, the new trailer had six more passive and active tags applied and commissioned. The cargo-loading event was then captured by two fixed interrogators and one handheld (for the CAT tags), and the passive pallet tags were associated with the new passive and active tags on the trailer. After loading, the trailer was closed, a new mechanical seal was installed, and the seal ID number was manually entered as the tags were read. Then, once the container tag was interrogated, the pallets were associated to that tag and the mechanical seal data was associated to the read. As the trailer exited the yard, readers captured the trailer's departure from the cross-dock facility.

Another set of interrogators located at the warehouse entrance gate read the trailer tags, thus capturing the trailer's arrival at the consignee's warehouse in Janesville, Wisc., where cellular communications were employed to transmit the data from readers to the middleware to the EPCIS software. When the mechanical seal was broken prior to unloading, the data from that seal was manually entered as the container tags were read, and the seal was again de-associated from the trailer's passive and active tags.

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