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RFID Tracks Gear for Australian Customs and Border Protection

The agency is using HF passive tags and readers at 22 offices and on numerous vessels, to track the location and maintenance records for thousands of weapons and pieces of equipment.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 06, 2011The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers monitoring that nation's border operate more than 50 patrol offices across Australia's vast coastline, as well as overseas, and on dozens of vessels, all managed from a single central location, in the city of Canberra. The agency patrols its 16,000 miles of coastline to prevent illicit drug tracking, people smuggling and terrorism, as well as enforce trade regulations and collect tariffs. Customs and Border Protection oversees the use of thousands of items, including weapons, protective gear, specialized equipment and vehicles. From its central office, the agency wanted real-time visibility into all of its weapons and other assets, at all of its facilities.

From that central location, personnel manage equipment spread throughout those sites, as well as on vessels, knowing where weapons, personal protective gear, specialized equipment and vehicles are located, and ensuring that they are maintained or replaced when necessary. Until recently, to accomplish this task, the agency received spreadsheets from each location. The solution was inefficient, however, since every site had its own equipment-recording procedure, and—because each asset's location frequently changes—the reports were often inaccurate, which could lead to delays in the reporting of missing assets or weapons, or delays in the maintenance, repair or replacement of those items.

Australia's Customs and Border Protection Service uses Bluebird Pidion BIP-6000Max handheld readers to check equipment in and out.

An RFID system installed this past summer is intended to resolve the problem. The solution was provided by asset-intelligence solutions firm Relegen, using high-frequency (HF) RFID technology from HID Global. Relegen supplied its assetDNA software, along with HID Global tags, says Paul Bennett, Relegen's founder and managing director. The assetDNA software manages and interprets read data before making that information available to users, either on a customer's own server, or on a hosted server. It can also issue alerts in the event that an unauthorized event occurs, such as the failure to return a piece of equipment or weapon to the armory at which it was expected. What's more, DataTraceDNA technology from DataDot Technology provided the Customs and Border Protection with additional security in the event that an asset tag was removed. The DataTraceDNA material bonds to the molecular structure of an object's surface, amounting to a covert forensic tracer that acts as an invisible bar code. This material is imperceptible to the human eye, and requires a spectrometer to be detected.

A variety of RFID tags were used, including HID's Intag 200 model.
With the RFID system in place, the central office can see where its inventory is located, view alerts if an officer fails to return something, and thereby address problems, such as replacing missing equipment or working with the responsible officer to determine why the items were misplaced or lost. The system also allows the office to manage maintenance, and to relocate assets in the event that there is a shortage at one location and excess equipment at another.

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