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DOD Tests, Buys New ISO 18000-7 Tags From Four Companies

After testing the new active 433 MHz tags for electromagnetic interference, the U.S. military has placed orders for the devices, which could cost half as much as their predecessors.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 22, 2009The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has placed its first order for RFID technology compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard for a November 2009 delivery, to be provided by Unisys, Savi, Systems and Processes Engineering Corp. (SPEC) and Northrop Grumman. Previously, all four companies had been chosen by the DOD to compete for orders under its RFID-III contract, which calls for active 433.92 MHz RFID tags and readers compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard.

The newly ordered battery-powered 433 MHz tags were tested and approved this summer by the DOD's Product Manager Joint-Automatic Identification Technology (PM J-AIT) office, after passing electromagnetic interference (EMI) testing in August at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The previous RFID-II contract for 433 MHz was based on Savi's proprietary 433 MHz RFID technology, while the new RFID-III contract requires 433 MHz products compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard and supplied by multiple vendors. By using ISO 18000-7-compliant RFID hardware, the DOD and other U.S. and allied agencies will have a broadened interoperability of their technology.

Dash7's Pat Burns
PM J-AIT placed orders with all four vendors for tags to be delivered in early November—altogether ordering approximately 128,000 data-rich tags that can store large amounts of information, and 40,000 license plate tags encoded simply with a unique ID number. All four RFID-III vendors received a portion of this award. In 2007, Savi—which owns intellectual property necessary for complying with the ISO 18000-7 standard—granted licenses to other vendors so they could manufacture products compliant with that standard (see Seven Companies Sign Up for Savi IP License). Savi says its portion of the new order for ISO 18000-7 hardware totals $6.6 million and includes the Savi ST-654 data-rich tag, widely used to track shipping containers, vehicles and other large assets, as well as the Savi ST-621, a license plate tag.

In December 2008, the DOD granted the four prime contractors the opportunity to compete for orders under its RFID-III contract—an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract established by the U.S. Army on behalf of all U.S. armed services (see U.S. Defense Department Picks Four for RFID-III). The contract, administered by the PM J-AIT office, entitles the four firms to compete for purchase orders from any authorized organization supporting the Defense Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), coalition partners and other foreign military agencies. The purchase orders, however, were contingent on passage of the EMI testing, which was intended to determine whether RFID technology in airplanes or helicopters would interfere with onboard avionics, such as radios, navigation or flight instruments.

"The test procedure is used to verify that radiated spurious and harmonic emissions from transmitters do not exceed the specified requirements," says John Zentner, an electromagnetic environmental effects engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Sensors Directorate.

Because the four vendors' tags passed aircraft testing, they were granted inclusion in the military's EMI certification, which lists specific devices—such as laptop computers and audio-visual equipment—that have been approved to operate while aboard military aircraft.

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