Can Stolen Cargo Be Tracked Via RFID?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan Stolen Cargo Be Tracked Via RFID?
RFID Journal Staff asked 12 years ago

We have a problem in a foreign country with our trucks being seized by gangs. Cargo is transferred from one vehicle to another, and all contents are gone within hours. We would like to know if we can place RFID tags on cargo containers, so that the cargo would emit an RF signal. Through an airborne reader (or a device mounted on an automobile), we could then search for the RF signals being emitted. Thus, once the stolen cargo was geolocated, the goods could be retrieved. To your knowledge, would this be feasible? If not, what would be your suggestion for a solution?

—Will (New York)


Dear Will,

The answer depends on the details of your situation. If you have active beaconing tags (those that send out a signal at a preset interval) on the products, and if the goods are stored within an open truck, you could potentially drive around with an active RFID reader and pick up a signal. It would not necessarily help you determine which vehicle the stolen goods were on, however, since most systems triangulate on a tag's signal to determine its location. You would need to utilize an interrogator that could determine location using time of arrival and angle of arrival or received signal strength.

If the tagged objects were put inside a truck with a metal compartment, the signal would not be able to penetrate the walls, and you would not be able to determine the location of the tagged goods. Another option might be to place a seal on each container that transmits its GPS coordinates in the event that the seal is broken. This would tell you when and where the goods were stolen, and perhaps the authorities could then respond and catch the thieves in the act of transferring cargo to the other truck.

If someone steals the truck itself along with the goods, GPS would be the best solution.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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