Australian Defence Force (ADF) plans to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor consignments to troops in Iraq have been delayed for about six months due to difficulties with the project software. The ADF had planned to deploy several hundred RFID-tagged pallets and containers to Iraq by March as part of plans to enhance the monitoring and utilisation of its assets.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) plans to use radio
frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor consignments to troops in Iraq have been delayed for
about six months due to difficulties with the project
The tags are expected to store and transmit information such as maintenance and repair scheduling of Defence property
inside the containers and on the pallets.
Despite the difficulties, tags were still being
installed in 32 Defence distribution sites around Australia so
tagged containers could be sent to Iraq once the software
was ready, according to McGahey.
"We're putting all the hardware in place so that once we
resolve the replication issue, we'll be fine," he said.
McGahey said the system -- which included an in-transit visibility (ITV) application and a SQL Server platform -- worked fine in the pilot phase, but
when it was forced to handle a number of data input sources and
different levels of replication, it couldn't cope.
"We had to re-engineer it, it was a volume issue. There were
too many inputs for the system, and it slowed down."
When the deployment is finally green-lit, the ITV graphical user interface will allow
Defence logistics staff to view RFID-tagged pallets and containers throughout Iraq
from Australia. The ITV provides a link between the RFID tags and readers and the
Defence Mincom enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Defence was now reviewing its network topology to iron out any difficulties.
"We've been redesigning ITV so we get better system
performance," Brigadier McGahey said. "In some cases you want data replicated every 30
seconds, sometimes you want it every week, so it's about getting
the right mix between SQL Server and ITV," he said.
In the meantime, Defence troops in Iraq continue to use the
current barcode-based cargo visibility system.
In Australia, Defence was currently conducting RFID pilots
focusing on tagging individual items, said McGahey. These
included tagging parachutes, where the tags would store data on
the chute's history, repair, maintenance and inspection details.
Around 1,000 Defence warehouse staff have had their regular training programs expanded to accommodate RFID, as the technology is expected to
help stocktaking in warehouse operations.
However the wide array of pilots didn't mean the technology
would necessarily be used everywhere in Defence, according to
"The question is where are the winners? We're not buying
technology for technology's sake. If there's an item that's
fairly static and not too complex, barcodes will probably
Defence's first return on investment study on RFID will be
completed later this month, said McGahey, with more to come.
These included evaluating a range of RFID devices that had been deployed in the pilots.
"[The reports] will be relatively influential in regards to
the support of our operations.
"We want better visibility of our asset and inventory
Another factor Defence may have to factor is United States (US) defence
contractor Lockheed Martin's announcement of its intention to
acquire Savi Technology, the major supplier of RFID tags to the
US, United Kingdom and Australian defence forces.
McGahey said he did not anticipate any complications arising from the pending