The U.S. Department of Defense DoD runs the largest active Radio Frequency Identification (aRFID) enabled in-transit visibility tracking system in the world. The Radio Frequency In-Transit Visibility (ITV) network has points of presence in 2,000 locations in over 50 countries and tracks and over 57,000 shipments of mission-critical supplies and sensitive equipment weekly destined for warfighters across the globe.
The need for this technology arose in the 1990s during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. As needed goods and equipment were rushed to support the active conflict, 40,000 containers began to stack up in ports and warehouse yards because there wasn’t a system to identify what goods were inside and direct them to the required destination. Many parts and equipment were lost, reordered or discarded as a result. A GAO report later estimated that had the Department of Defense had a viable Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) system, $2 Billion could have been saved.
From this catalyzing problem, the ITV network of active RFID tags, readers, software, and processes was born. The precursor to today’s’ ITV network was first deployed in 1994. It has evolved the standard for active RFID (aRFID) communications globally and has been extremely successful in enabling military logisticians to use active RFID tags, readers and software to catalog, inventory and track the DoD and allied military supply chain worldwide. As a result, needed supplies can be quickly located in theater, accurate and appropriate inventory levels can be maintained, and logisticians can ensure warfighters have the right parts, at the right time, in the right places.
As military missions change, so must the logistics systems and tools used to support the warfighter. Smaller more mobile units in remote areas require agility and superior intelligence to protect our troops and achieve mission success. The ITV system of readers and tags has been used to automatically capture supply chain information as a tagged asset, vehicle, or container passes a fixed, handheld or mobile reader. This captured data keeps an accurate record of milestones (readers) passed and last known location but it doesn’t provide real-time visibility to where an asset is if it is in-transit between readers or if it does not reach the next expected milestone.
To address these gaps, Savi has developed new IoT sensors that are communications capable. These IoT sensors don’t need an aRFID reader to collect data since they communicate via mobile networks and/or satellite.
Data on location and optionally, environmental conditions (temperature, shock, light, etc.) is sent on a configurable interval such as every day, hour or minute. These IoT sensors can provide real-time actionable data, allowing planners and supply chain managers to respond immediately to security tampers, changing conditions, or changing missions.
An accurate real-time location allows for a precise Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) calculation so that logisticians and operations can know whether equipment and personnel will be available exactly when needed and take mitigating actions when delays occur.
Environmental and electronic tamper IoT sensors can send an immediate alert if a container or pallet is opened or if sensitive medical supplies exceed viable temperature limits en route. Location data allows logisticians to pinpoint exactly where an out of range condition occurred so that a route, depot or port can be avoided, or procedures modified to avoid damage to future goods. If a vehicle in a convoy does not arrive as expected, real-time visibility reveals where it is, or if it is off a planned route and potentially in danger.
In 2018, Savi will introduce a hybrid sensor offering aRFID and mobile communications bundled together in a new IoT sensor. This sensor will be backward compatible with all existing ISO 18000-7 readers in the ITV system and will send real-time location and environmental data when the asset, vehicle or container is not within range of an aRFID infrastructure. This device supports the DoD’s objectives of reducing the need for expensive, fixed infrastructure and facilitates agile operations. This hybrid sensor enables the seamless transition from the active RFID environment to the cellular GPRS networks and extends the viability of the in-transit visibility network without the expensive cost and permanent presence of the aRFID infrastructure. This type of sensor can increase the security of highly pilferable goods or hazardous materials that need to be carefully controlled.
Savi is also developing a sensor that will provide an encrypted link for the data that passes over mobile and satellite carriers. This IoT sensor ensures that data is secure at capture, transmission, and storage. Both the hybrid sensor and the encrypted sensor support the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) industry engagement focus to assess and mitigate supply chain risk.
Superior information enables greater mobility and agility, improving methods for combating the threats DoD faces. Savi is proud to support DoD’s complex global supply chain and will continue to innovate in support of future mission success.