DLA Plans IoT Solution for Tracking Assets at Texas Facility

The agency has signed a multi-million-dollar contract with Savi to initially track the movements of 24,000 vehicles and other high-value assets at the Red River Deport, as well as wherever the vehicles are deployed around the world.
Published: November 22, 2018

Supply-chain and asset-management technology company Savi has signed a contract with the United States’ Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to provide Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track approximately 24,000 military assets—primarily vehicles—as they move around the world. The system employs technology provided by Orbcomm, an IoT firm that makes communications solutions to track, monitor and control assets, while Savi provides sensor-based analytics, software and hardware. Orbcomm’s contribution consists of solar-powered cellular sensors that transmit data as assets move around the DLA’s facility, as well as from other locations worldwide.

The order is part of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)’s RFID-IV contract (#W52P1) between military agencies and technology providers for tracking assets and their in-transit visibility as they move around the globe. Since 2013, Savi has provided nearly all of the DoD’s RFID-related contracts, totaling $800 million (see U.S. DoD Reaffirms Commitment to Savi as Sole RFID-IV Provider).

Rosemary Johnston

The new DLA deployment will take place at the Red River Distribution Depot in Texas, one of the agency’s eight depots. The facility provides support for tracked and wheeled vehicles, aircraft and major weapon systems, including repair, storage and shipping. The depot serves as the storage site for the U.S. Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicles Systems, as well as several rocket systems and multipurpose wheeled vehicles.

The solution will consist of Orbcomm’s cellular devices, transmitting GPRS- or CDMA-based data that is managed by Savi’s Visibility real-time asset location and analytics software, according to Rosemary Johnston, Savi’s VP of operations. Orbcomm’s GT 1100 devices include solar-powered units to supplement the power of an onboard lithium-ion battery, as well as GPS unit and satellite communication. A ruggedized enclosure is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, as well as exposure to water, dust, shock and vibration.

The sensor measures 114 millimeters by 337 millimeters (4.9 inches by 13.3 inches) and 25 millimeters (1 inch) in thickness. The device’s solar functionality enables the battery to have a lifespan of typically five to 10 years. This offers reliable service without maintenance or battery change across a typical asset’s lifecycle, says Greg Flessate, ORBCOMM’s senior VP for government and maritime. It is designed to go into either standby sleep mode or deep sleep. The sensors leverage solar energy not just from direct sunlight, but also from ambient light, even if a vehicle is parked away from natural lighting.

The sensors will be attached to vehicles (on either the top or side) and can transmit data including a tag’s unique ID number (linked with a specific asset) and that item’s GPS-based location, along with a date and time stamp and its battery life, two times a day. As the vehicle is moved from one location to another, the device sends its unique ID number, with longitude and latitude coordinates.

Vicki Warker

Data is captured and managed on the cloud-based Visibility software platform, which identifies where each vehicle is located, then forwards that information to the DoD’s RF-ITV network so it can be accessed by logistics managers. With this data, managers can understand the locations of all assets within their supply chain, and thereby determine when any cargo is delayed or misrouted, and thus better anticipate arrival at a specific destination.

The intent, Johnston explains, is to spare personnel from labor related to tracking inventory “so that they can pursue more pressing tasks.” With the solution, she says, the DLA will gain real-time location data regarding each vehicle, no matter in what part of the world it is located or how it is being operated.

Marianne Cullen

“There are times when it’s suggested that the government is not on the bleeding edge” when it comes to technology adoption, says Vicki Warker, Savi’s chief marketing officer. This contract indicates otherwise, she maintains, since the agency “is taking significant steps into IoT technology.” She adds, “There’s a huge potential here for very granular-level management with a technology-based tool.” In fact, adds Marianne Cullen, Savi’s marketing director, the DLA is proving with the contract “that they are very open to adopting new technology.”

Earlier this summer, the U.S. government extended the active RFID-IV contract through April 2019 (see Savi-DoD Contract Brings Cellular Connectivity, Mobility to Asset Management). Last month, Savi received an additional order from two DoD agencies for active RFID tags, with a total of 48,000 active RFID tags added to the 1 million such tags already deployed by the DoD and other international militaries (see Savi Receives Orders for Active RFID Tags from Tw U.S. Defense Agencies).