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US Army Issues RFP for Large RFID Purchase

The US Army issued a request for proposals (RFP) to supply more than 8,000 fixed position and handheld RFID readers, 53,000 tags, 600 printer/encoders, 3,800 software licenses plus personnel, services, and maintenance during the next three years.
Tags: Defense
May 06, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 6, 2008—Last week the US Army issued a request for proposals (RFP) to provide passive Gen2 RFID equipment potentially worth millions of dollars during the next six years. The RFID acquisition is a new program that does not replace an expiring contract or extend an existing one, Nonya Nichols, the army's point of contact for the acquisition, told RFID Update.

The program represents a major new investment in passive RFID. In just the next three years, the Army expects to purchase 5,894 fixed-position readers, 2,199 handheld readers, 646 printer/encoders, 53,642 general-purpose tags, and 3,803 software licenses under the contracts awarded, according to background documents available with the RFP. The contracts awarded will run for three years and include three additional one-year options.

Documentation included with the RFP says RFID equipment will be used throughout the world by the US Army, Coast Guard, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, plus NATO and some foreign militaries. An overview of the RFP is on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The Army expects to award up to five contracts to obtain the items specified, including up to three for businesses of less than 1,000 employees. Businesses have until May 14, 2008, to submit proposals. As of May 5th, 18 different organizations were listed on the RFP's Interested Vendors List. The Army may ask for oral presentations to supplement proposals, which would begin August 30. There is no deadline for the Army to award the contracts, and Nichols said there is no way to predict when the process will be completed.

The current RFP was issued May 2. Another version was issued earlier in the year, then canceled on April 18 because the Army changed its RFID requirements. One of the changes required multiprotocol fixed-position and handheld readers that can be easily switched to conform with different regional RF transmission regulations. Other changes required printer/encoders to be able to support additional frequencies (862-870 MHz and 950-956 MHz) within a year of the contract being awarded, and for handheld readers to be certified as non-incendive for use in potentially hazardous environments.

The 48-page Specification of Work that is included with the RFP materials summarizes the scope of Army RFID activity and lists possible applications for the RFID equipment and software specified in the RFP. The following application list is taken directly from the Specification of Work:
  1. Inventory and warehousing environments;
  2. Supply chain tracking;
  3. Large open-area storage facilities (austere marshaling areas, and staging and assembly areas), with or without electrical power or an established communications infrastructure;
  4. The control of maintenance, repair, and tracking facilities;
  5. The control of entry and exit points of military facilities, and roadside installations;
  6. Restricted office and laboratory environments;
  7. The control of transactions at custody exchange points (for example, weapons issue facilities);
  8. The military transportation community (for example, seaports and air terminals), and petroleum distribution points (including fueling operations at airports, in-flight, and at sea);
  9. The handling of hazardous, explosive, or otherwise regulated materials; and
  10. The control of military convoys.
The document also includes technical specifications for RFID hardware and software, and describes the services, personnel, and maintenance contracts called for in the RFP. Specifications require relevant hardware and software to support the EPCglobal Class 1 Gen2 standard, but also call for suppliers to provide Class 2 Gen2 products as the technology becomes available. Class 2 is a next-generation standard in development that provides additional memory and security features.

The RFP is for an indefinite-order, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract, which means there is no dollar value or amount of equipment to be purchased. Judging by the estimated year-by-year quantities listed in the RFP documentation, item quantities and contract values will be large. For perspective, Lowry Computer Products recently announced it won an $8.5 million contract from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to provide 1,800 RFID printer/encoders over five years (see DLA to Expand RFID Labeling with $8.5M Order). The Army's RFP calls for about a third as many printer/encoders, but also for more than four times as many readers, plus software, services, maintenance, and personnel. The technology and services called for in the new RFP are also separate from those covered by existing contracts for active RFID technology (see DoD Awards Unisys Multimillion Dollar RFID Contract).
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