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In Haiti, RFID Brings Relief

In its efforts to provide assistance to the earthquake-damaged nation, the U.S. Department of Defense is using 433 MHz active RFID tags to track supplies and equipment.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
The next day, the team began processing the first shipments, which arrived in cargo containers from the Jacksonville SDDC facility. Savi's ST-654 active RFID tags, which operate in the 433 MHz band and comply with the ISO 18000-7 standard, had been attached to some, but not all, of the containers. This was due to logistical issues, Goss explains. Chief among them was the short window that the Jacksonville personnel had to load up and prepare the initial aid containers, which did not always allow sufficient time to attach, encode and commission an RFID tag to each container. In addition, the first loads of supplies that arrived at the facility from warehouses and military vendors were often not marked with military ID numbers, so the Jacksonville team would have had to assign IDs to the supplies and then create manifests, as well as link all this information in the ITV system and to the RFID tags attached to the containers.

But once the processes in Jacksonville were set into place, and after the SDDC crew in Haiti arrived and established logistics for receiving and processing aid shipments, RFID tags were attached to all cargo containers shipped from Jacksonville, and the supplies were then moved into Haiti efficiently. Water, ready-to-eat meals and medicine made up the bulk of the earliest shipments, with construction equipment and other large assets arriving later.

In Jacksonville, as supplies were loaded onto container ships, personnel built up a manifest in the ITV network, listing the items in each container. This process was performed manually during the beginning of the aid operation, Goss says. Due to the rushed nature of the operation, he explains, the supplies generally arrived without a military 2-D bar-code label attached. This meant that SDCC personnel had to manually key descriptions of the supplies into the ITV database. Once each container was filled, the team had to associate its manifest with the ID number of the RFID tag attached to the container, and ensure that the data was stored accurately in the ITV network. Fixed-position interrogators then read each tag as it moved out of the Jacksonville facility.

Goss notes that Jacksonville does not receive supplies by using passive RFID tags attached to cases or pallets of inbound goods. "Passive tags don't apply to our scenario here in Jacksonville," he said. "We scan 2-D bar codes, which dump the supply data into the ITV."

What's more, containers arriving at Jacksonville from other military sites sometimes already have RFID tags attached. The Jacksonville personnel can read these tags in order to call up the container manifests in the ITV system, and then note in the ITV database that the shipment had been received in Jacksonville and was being transported to Haiti. If the container does not have a tag attached, the team encodes and attaches one.

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