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The DOD Marches On

The U.S. Department of Defense has been making progress with its goal of using RFID and other technologies to create "total asset visibility" within its global supply chain.
By Mark Roberti
Feb 01, 2009—The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been working since the mid-1990s to use RFID and other technologies to create "total asset visibility" within its supply chain, which stretches around the globe. The DOD has quietly been making progress, using both active and passive RFID systems.

The DOD has been using active RFID from Savi Technology to monitor the movement of containers from distribution centers in the United States to ports and bases overseas. Among the benefits of tracking supplies is the ability to ensure that goods reach soldiers in the field when they need them. Better visibility also reduces unnecessary reordering and bottlenecks in the supply chain.

The DOD announced in December that it had selected four companies to provide active RFID technologies. The contract is valued at $428 million and allows DOD units to purchase active tags from Northrop Grumman, Savi Technology, Systems & Processes Engineering and Unisys. The tags will operate under ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 18000-7 standards.

The new active technology contract, dubbed RFID III, is an indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract established by the U.S. Army on behalf of all services. That means all branches can purchase RFID hardware, software and services from the vendors selected under the contract. The contract calls for the vendors to offer five tag types, ranging from a simple battery-powered tag with a serial number to a tag used for container security. Some of the tags will have up to 512K of memory, and others must support five sensors to detect light, temperature, humidity, shock and tampering.

The DOD also is making progress in deploying passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID based on the Electronic Product Code standard. The department uses active tags to track large containers and is using passive tags to get additional visibility at the pallet and case levels. The idea is to track pallets and cases arriving at distribution facilities, and then as they're assembled into shipments going overseas.
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