Savi Technology Announces IP Licensing for Cargo E-seals

By Beth Bacheldor

The goal of the program is to spur the market for non-reusable freight-container active RFID seals compliant with the newly ratified ISO 18185 standard.


At this week’s RFID Journal LIVE! 2007 conference in Orlando, Fla., Savi Technology announced a new intellectual property (IP) licensing program for electronic cargo seals (e-seals) complying with the ISO 18185 standard. The standard was approved in mid-April by the International Standards Organization (ISO), which describes it as a “non-reusable freight container seal.”

ISO 18185 specifies the requirements for data protection, device authentication, environmental characteristics (resistance to such things as vibration, mechanical shock, rain, dust and electrostatic discharge) and the communications (air-interface) protocol between read-only active RFID e-seals and associated interrogators. All compliant e-seals must be capable of communicating at 433 MHz and 2.45 GHz. E-seals are designed to help companies track shipments and monitor whether a container has been tampered with, or if its security has been compromised. Five years in the making, the ISO 18185 standard “will serve as a catalyst to help drive the market,” says Bob Kramer, executive VP of Savi Technology. With a common standard in place, companies will be able to purchase compliant e-seals from a variety of vendors and use any compliant service to monitor and manage container location, security and condition, without worrying about whether the e-seals or services will interoperate.

Bob Kramer

E-seals can help secure containers and provide real-time information about their locations, thereby countering cargo theft and improving port security. The FBI has reported cargo thefts of $15 billion to $30 billion annually in the United States, Savi reports, and more than $50 billion a year globally. Add in unreported thefts, sales lost to stolen goods, disrupted customer service and the impact on a company’s brand, and the problem can get much more costly. Cargo theft, Kramer says, is a global problem costing more than $100 billion per year.

Port security is another concern. “Only about 3 percent of all incoming cargo to the United States is inspected today,” says Kramer, though U.S. regulators are trying to change that. For instance, the Safe Ports Act of 2006 recommends certain measures the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can take to promote the use of new technologies, including e-seals, to better secure U.S. ports.

According to a recent research report published by ABI Research, e-seals have “immense appeal to U.S. and international companies and to government agencies because they would obviate the need for the seal to be physically inspected by a customs official.” Such inspections can require a lot of time, the report states, to determine whether the security bolt on a container’s seal was tampered with. When affixed to a cargo container, e-seals can transmit an alert indicating such tampering. Adding sensors and GPS capability can enhance an e-seal’s functions to indicate whether conditions inside a container have changed, as well as a container’s location while in transit.

ISO 18185 hit a few bumps during the standardization process. In late 2004, Motorola raised concerns that the standard did not address the security of data on the tags (see ISO Reconsidering E-Seal Specification). Savi executives, however, say those concerns were resolved after Motorola fully reviewed the specification’s technical details.

Savi, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, is launching the ISO 18185 licensing program that will be available through June 30, 2007. The company’s Quick Start Plan offers licensing agreements with lower up-front fees to encourage early participation in the licensing program. Last August, Savi offered a similar plan for its IP licensing program based on ISO 18000-7, the air-interface protocol for active RFID tags operating at 433 MHz (see Savi Announces IP Licensing Program for Active RFID Tags).

Savi currently does not offer an ISO 18185-compliant e-seal, though the company says it is considering developing one. To date, Savi markets only one e-seal, the ST-662, which combines an E.J. Brooks seal with a Savi 433 MHz active tag compliant with ISO 18000-7. That e-seal is currently being utilized by Western Digital in Thailand to help speed its computer components as they travel through customs (see Western Digital Uses RFID Seals to Streamline Customs).