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Military to trial enhanced RFID tags

Tracking tags that can be read wirelessly from 60m away are being tested by the MoD
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to trial enhanced RFID tags capable of being read from distances of up to 60m later this year in an attempt to improve the tracking of military supplies.

The "active" RFID tags the MoD plans to use contain a small battery capable of emitting signals, which increases the range they can be read at and the amount of data that can be stored on the chip. Special readers can track these tags over a distance of 60m.

These differ from "passive" RFID chips which track individual items from readers at a closer range.

The active tags would allow the MoD to keep track of large batches of kit and equipment much more easily. The US Department of Defense has already spent around $100m over the last 10 years using active RFID tags to keep track of large batches of supplies sent to overseas operations on cargo ships.

The MoD has used RFID in its logistical process and supply chain as part of its total asset visibility (TAV) programme since 2002.

Defence minister Adam Ingram told MPs this week: "The Ministry of Defence is currently reviewing existing capability in this area and is increasing the use of TAV in Afghanistan to support the developing operational requirement there. We plan to trial an enhanced active RFID capability in June 2006 to assess its potential to provide further improvements in our consignment tracking capability."

The MoD has introduced RFID tracking into its supply chain after being criticised by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee at the end of 2004 for failing to get the correct kit to soldiers during the invasion of Iraq, despite spending more than £500m on asset tracking systems since the first Gulf War in 1991.

The MoD failed to respond to a request for comment.

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