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New Shipment-tracking Standard to Save Millions

By Cynthia Bauer
U.S. Transportation Command

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Dec. 30, 2013 – A major yet mostly transparent change to automatic identification technology that’ll be implemented Jan. 1 is expected to save the Defense Department at least $5 million a year in transportation and distribution costs.

U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Logistics Agency and the military services set the stage for the cost savings by migrating Active Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, tags to the “ISO 1800-7” standard.

Radio frequency identification relies on radio frequency electronic fields to wirelessly identify and track bar-code-like tags that are attached to objects as they move through a distribution system.

The aRFID standard establishes how tags and interrogators communicate with each other.

Transcom is DOD’s lead functional proponent for automatic identification technology, which includes the aRFID system.

Previously, DOD’s aRFID network operated using the “ANSI 256” standard. But the limits of that standard became apparent after more than a decade of war.

“Frankly, we were running out of tags since the ANSI standard has a limited number of unique tag ID numbers,” said Andy Monday, chief of Transcom’s Logistics Enabling Support Division. “Even though we emphasize tag reuse, many times the tags were lost or damaged after delivery.”

In contrast, the ISO being introduced “provides virtually unlimited unique tag ID numbers, essential for maintaining in-transit visibility of shipments,” Monday said.

Turning on the switch to ISO-only tracking brings with it several additional benefits. ISO 18000-7 has become the global commercial aRFID communication standard and the tags themselves are one-third the cost of the legacy ANSI tags, Monday explained. Using the ISO standard enables many aRFID vendors to compete for DOD contracts, which leads to lower costs for customers and ultimately, U.S. taxpayers.

Together, DOD, Transcom, the military services, DLA, the General Services Administration, NATO, coalition partners and others have been planning the transition and making the necessary hardware and software changes over the past five years to make the switch possible.

The aRFID Migration Workgroup formed in 2009 to guide the effort and by 2010 DLA began using the new ISO tags for its shipments, Monday said.

“ANSI and ISO tags have both been in the system since 2010, but the ANSI tags will no longer be used on shipments after January 1,” he said.

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Related Sites:
U.S. Transportation Command
Special Report: U.S. Transportation Command

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