Pelican RFID-Enables Its Cases

By Claire Swedberg

Using electronic seals from Mikoh, the company is selling models that can be sealed with RFID closures—as well as RFID retrofitting kits for previously purchased cases.

Pelican Products is selling containers that can be sealed with RFID closures—as well as RFID retrofitting kits for previously purchased containers—as an added layer of security for its government and commercial end-users. Pelican makes reusable rectangular, suitcase-like injection-molded plastic containers as small as an iPod and as large as a footlocker. Its customers include government agencies, manufacturers of high-value items, fire and police departments and professionals and industrial workers.

The RFID closures, known as SecureContainer and provided by Mikoh, will allow users of any Pelican container to employ RFID technology to seal and track any effort to open their containers. Pelican entered into a memorandum of understanding to sell the kit with Mikoh for Pelican cases.

In February, SecureContainer began marketing the containers that used SecureContainer closures (see Mikoh Develops Reusable Container With RFID Security Seal). However the company has since opted to partner with a company that specializes in the manufacture of containers. Pelican sells 56 models of ruggedized containers.

The SecureContainer kit allows container owners to attach a tamper-resistant RFID seal to a container's opening. Pelican is marketing the container with the RFID kit so that users can verify that a case has not been tampered with. RFID interrogators must be purchased separately, although Mikoh can provide the names of integrators and reader vendors upon request.

It works like this: Users slide disposable plastic inserts over the container opening, then attach a Mikoh Smart&Secure passive or active RFID tag to the inserts. Mikoh sells tags that comply with various standards and operate at different frequencies, including LF, HF and UHF, says Andrew Strauch, Mikoh's vice president, product marketing and management. The seal on the RFID tag goes directly onto the plastic inserts so that there is no contact with the container itself, ensuring there is no residue sealant after using the tag. If anyone attempts to open the container, they would have to break the plastic inserts and the RFID tag attached to it.

SecureContainer comes in two options—one in which the wire between the embedded RFID tag's antenna and the chip would be broken in the event someone tries to remove the tag or open the container. In that situation, the RFID chip becomes inoperable. With this less expensive solution, the user will know the tag has been tampered with when they find the tag no longer can be read, but not until then.

In the second option, the tag still functions after the seal is broken, and when read by an RFID interrogator, it can send an alert message that the seal has been damaged or destroyed. This second solution, says Strauch, has been of interest to the U.S. government because even if the seal is breached, government personnel could still read any historical data written to that tag.

Pelican will market some models of its cases with SecureContainer closures attached, as well as sell retrofit SecureContainer kits to individuals who already own Pelican containers and wish to make them RFID-enabled.

Mikoh first approached Pelican after working with a government agency that was seeking a secure container that used RFID technology, explains Mark Rolfes, Pelican vice president of sales and marketing. The agency's containers travel across the world and change custody several times, and if a container arrives at its ultimate destination and items are found missing, it can be nearly impossible to trace back the source of the breach.

With an RFID enclosure, when a container closure is tampered with, the next time agency workers attempt to read the tag with an RFID interrogator, they will become aware of the breach. They can then conclude that the breach occurred between the previous RFID read and the present one.

"The reactions have been phenomenal," says Rolfes. "The interest in RFID is definitely there."

Retrofit kits will cost about $50, says Strauch, while replacement RFID tags and plastic inserts will cost about $8. The first RFID kits will be shipped to an unnamed government agency customer in the next few weeks, while RFID-enabled containers, as well as retrofit kits for additional customers, are being manufactured now.