RFID to track army supplies in Iraq

Australian army troops in Iraq will use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor the movement of equipment from early next year.The Australian Defence Force wants to improve monitoring and control of its critical distribution network, which provides items like rations and weapons to armed forces.

Australian army troops in Iraq will use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor the movement of equipment from early next year.

The Australian Defence Force wants to improve monitoring and control of its critical distribution network, which provides items like rations and weapons to armed forces. In order to improve visibility of supplies in the network, pallets and containers in Iraq would be RFID-tagged from February, Brigadier David McGahey, its director general of material information systems, told ZDNet Australia.

"The tags will primarily store numberplate and identification data," McGahey said.

Defence is also trialling 8MB 'contact memory buttons' with the tags, which can store larger amounts of information, such as how to repair a particular item, McGahey said.

Each tag, supplied by US-based Savi Technology, is battery-powered and can transmit data to readers up to 100m away.

"There are hundreds of millions of items that currently we have poor visibility of," McGahey said, adding that missing or incomplete data has affected its stock records and accounting systems.

However, McGahey revealed there were other drivers for improving the situation.

Terrorists had identified attacking supply chains as a prime way of disrupting opposition forces. "It is a most difficult thing to defend," he said.

"We need the ability to redeploy assets quickly... to be able to change to respond to threats," he added.

The Iraq project accompanies the wider In-Transit Visibility project, which will integrate RFID with Defence's transport, distribution and inventory management systems. This will replace the barcode-based cargo visibility system, which requires manual data input.

Defence will upgrade its enterprise resource planning system in September to incorporate the new RFID distribution network. "We're upgrading our ERP to [Mincom's] Ellipse version," he said.

By August next year, Defence expects to have its Iraq RFID supply chain system replicated in other Middle Eastern countries, as well as its 34 sites in Australia.

The In-Transit Visibility project is due to be completed by May 2007.

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