Armed to the Teeth with RFID Tags

The United States Transportation Command (www.transcom.mil) has implemented radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to improve its tracking capabilities. USTRANSCOM is headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and acts as the single manager of America’s global defense transportation system. It coordinates missions worldwide using military and commercial transportation resources. During the Desert Shield and Desert Storm missions, the command center moved about 504,000 passengers, 3.7 million tons of dry cargo and 6.1 million tons of petroleum. USTRANSCOM is currently using RFID tags to monitor air cargo bound for five U.S. aerial ports and two overseas, which include Ramstein Air Base and Yokota Air Base.

“It’s all aimed at ITV (in-transit visibility) so the DOD knows we have the capability to look at the identity, status and location of assets,” explains Lori Jones, assigned to the policy and doctrine division of USTRANSCOM. The cargo being tracked includes munitions and repair parts.

The tags are supplied by Savi Technology (www.savi.com), which earlier this year was awarded a three-year, $90 million contract by the DOD to provide RFID hardware and related logistics software services.

The RFID system is enabled after information is transferred from a database onto the RFID tags and then placed on the plastic netting that secures the pallet contents. The pallet is unloaded at an airfield that has a system of fixed RFID readers, which then updates the DOD’s information systems throughout the world with the pallet’s current location. If the airfield does not have a fixed transponder, a handheld scanner can be used, according to Jones.

In the past, USTRANSCOM has tracked cargo using military shipping labels that are placed on each packaged item. Today, however, information from each label can now be “burned” onto a single RFID tag that compiles all the pallet content data.

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