New Offerings for DOD Suppliers

By Jonathan Collins

Imobile unveils an application and the RFID tags needed to label and track shipments according to Department of Defense RFID requirements.

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Startup Interactive Mobile Systems (imobile) has announced its first RFID software that targets manufacturers faced with meeting the Department of Defense’s RFID requirements. Set for general release on Nov. 15, the company’s PartsSentinel for DOD Vendors application manages tracking and labeling of tagged items, cases and pallets shipped to the DOD, and it prepares the suppliers of those shipments for compliance with the DOD supply chain requirements. The software will be part of the imobile’s wider RFID offerings, which will include OEM sales, systems integration and RFID labels.

Harvey Janelli

Last month, the DOD announced the final details of its plan to make RFID tagging mandatory for delivery of materials passing through its strategic distribution centers in San Joaquin, Calif., and Susquehanna, Pa., beginning Jan. 1, 2005 (see DOD Releases Final RFID Policy). According to the mandate, the DOD plans to use passive UHF EPC tags, either Class 1 or Class 0, operating between 860 MHz and 960 MHz with a minimum read range of 3 meters (about 9 feet). The tags are to be applied to cases and pallets and to individual high-value items.

PartsSentinel is a Web services application that can manage tag numbering schemes as well as track real-time parts and other high-value assets as they leave the manufacturer and move through the DOD supply chain. The software includes the RFID middleware to support for both active and passive RFID tags and labels, as well as handheld and stationary RFID readers.

The PartsSentinel database tracking starts when an item is first labeled and continues throughout the item-to-case and case-to-pallet aggregation. When a case or pallet is ready to leave the manufacturer’s plant, the PartsSentinel system creates the case and pallet shipping labels. Item and shipment details can also include contract data, drawings, data sheets and other information associated with the uniquely numbered item. The application also generates an invoice when a tagged item, case or pallet is shipped.

According to imobile, the software is suitable for a wide range of manufacturers. “We have spoken to some suppliers that will ship just eight items a year to the DOD and others set to tag hundreds of cases a day,” says Harvey V. Janelli, director of business development at imobile, which is based in Port Townsend, Wash.

In addition to an enterprise version of its PartsSentinel for DOD Vendors, imobile is preparing an offering that will allow companies unwilling to invest in the infrastructure software to pay for a hosted version of the service. Pricing will be based an annual fee and a per-tag charge. As the volume of tags used by a company increases, the annual fee will drop.

Imobile says its application was developed using Java and therefore runs on multiple hardware platforms and operating systems, including Windows, Unix and Linux. Currently, the application supports Microsoft’s MySQL database, but imobile says Oracle and IBM DB2 databases will also be supported by the end of the year.

While the software can operate as a stand-alone system, it can also be linked to existing warehouse management system (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, although additional middleware will be required to link with PartsSentinel API’s, says imobile.

Imobile says it will act as a systems integrator for any PartsSentinel customers that want a turnkey RFID system deployed to support their DOD tagging systems. PartsSentinel will also be available as an OEM offering to other application vendors and software resellers.

The company is also introducing its own passive 900 MHz Class 1 96-bit read-write label, branded SynthoSmart, that complies with the MIL-STD 129 standard for DOD Military Shipping Label (MSL) requirements. The label features a unique synthetic face stock and two additional layers, one to protect against electrostatic discharge and one to protect the silicon chip from physical damage. Imobile says it is currently producing sample runs for internal testing and verification, with production runs (greater than 10,000 tags) scheduled for delivery in mid to late October.

The company currently offers a passive 13.56 MHz RFID label that can be mounted directly onto metal objects. Complying with the ISO 15693 standard, imobile’s 13.56 MHz SynthoSmart label is designed for item-level tagging on items such as aircraft system parts and on metal shelving.

PartsSentinel for DOD Vendors is priced at $48,995 for the enterprise version of the software, with maintenance and support pricing additional.

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