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U.S. Marines' Blount Island Command Attaches Passive Tags to Containers

The facility responsible for maintaining equipment and supplies aboard "maritime prepositioning ships" is deploying long-range Omni-ID EPC Gen 2 tags to expedite the loading and unloading of cargo.
By Claire Swedberg
If there is a discrepancy, such as a container or vehicle being loaded that did not belong on the vessel, an alert is issued, and a 32-inch outdoor LCD screen on a mobile stand, and cabled to the laptop computer, displays data regarding that tag passing the reader. IPRIME also provides e-mail notification to managers in the event any data discrepancies are found.

For the test involving the USNS Pless, 254 containers were tagged, 241 were read and 13 were missed. In addition, 452 vehicles and other large pieces of equipment were tagged, and 419 of those tags were read. Officials conducted a failure analysis on the tags that were not read, and determined that in most instances, the tag was not placed in the appropriate location. These errors were identified and corrected prior to the ship's departure from Blount Island.

In Korea, at the Port of Mokpo, the tags could be read effectively at a distance of about 20 feet, at a chokepoint set up there. Layher says the commander in Korea was well aware of Blount Island's passive RFID initiative. "His endorsement made it easy for Blount Island to send a technical assistance and advisory team and hardware to the Korean port," he states, "to track the arrival and movement of cargo off the vessel."

In Korea, the readers were installed to read the MaxHD tag of each cargo container or vehicle as it was off-loaded from the vessel and transported to a staging area. In the future, Layher says, he hopes to see RFID reader hardware travel with the vessel, so that it would not have to be shipped from Blount each time a vessel docked, with the intention of off-loading the cargo. To date, the command has used MaxHD tags on containers and vehicles for four vessels, now at sea. It plans to use the tags on containers and vehicles for a fifth ship, scheduled to be serviced in July.

Based on the success of the tests conducted at Blount Island and in Korea, the command is continuing to place passive RFID tags on containers and vehicles for MPS.

"Our goal is to continue to put the tags out there," Layher states. "We've demonstrated that it's an awesome way to collect data." In the meantime, he says, the military is required to continue attaching active RFID tags to containers, though Layher predicts that the rule will someday change.

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