Army awards radio frequency ID contract

The Army recently awarded a contract to Savi Technology for radio frequency identification (RFID) hardware, software and services that will be a part of the overall Defense Department's effort in the ongoing global war on terrorism to achieve "total asset visibility" for logistics.

The Army Contracting Agency's Information Technology, E-Commerce and Commercial Contracting Center awarded the three-year, $90 million contract, which lets military personnel buy directly from Savi a wide range of automatic identification and data collection technologies and software to track, monitor, locate, secure, process and deploy military supplies worldwide.

RFID tags and other technologies, from bar codes to satellite systems, are affixed to cargo containers and other shipping platforms. The systems automatically capture data in real-time that is integrated into a global software network to provide immediate information on the location and status of the containers and their contents.

Last month, Gen. Paul Kern, commander of the Army Materiel Command, issued an order requiring that all air pallets, containers and commercial sustainment shipments supporting Operation Enduring Freedom or future operations be identified with RFID tags. That order came after a similar one last summer from Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, which is leading the active military component of the ongoing war on terrorism.

"Compliance with this RFID tagging policy is absolutely essential — no other existing system provides the necessary visibility or level of detail," Kern wrote. "RFID is the only tool that allows [Coalition Forces Land Component Command] to identify critical cargo, locate it, and anticipate its arrival. The technology is proven, widespread and is positively required for CFLCC operations."

The new contract, which was awarded last month and went into effect Feb. 1, calls for three years of equipment purchases and two years of training and maintenance services, according to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

Savi has been supplying DOD with RFID products and services since 1994, and the latest contract continues to extend DOD's total asset visibility network, which monitors and manages 270,000 cargo containers transporting military supplies throughout 400 locations in more than 40 countries.

The Army's Product Manager for Automatic Identification Technology, along with Savi, is responsible for responding to military proposals for real-time solutions in five types of RFID technologies: passive, active, beaconing, portal-based and real-time locating systems.

The technologies can be used for numerous logistics operations including: inventory and warehouse environments; maintenance, repair and tracking facilities; in-transit and checkpoint transportation; hazardous materials handling; transactions at custody exchange points; and controlling military convoys.

The Army conducted an 18-month evaluation of commercial providers before awarding the contract to Savi based on its "unique software that facilitates integration and management of all types of RFID technologies," according to the service's justification and approval document. "This software is based on the Universal Data Appliance Protocol, an interface to which many RFID suppliers are building. Users will be able to manage all Savi supplied and installed products using this integrated software solution."

Vikram Verma, Savi's chief executive officer, likened the total asset visibility network to "the physical equivalent of the Internet, and the technologies available now because of its continued expansion, also provide unparalleled management and security benefits for the commercial supply chain community."

Savi's RFID tags are the only active tags that are currently compliant with the International Committee for Information Technology Standards 256-2001 Standard, a minimum DOD requirement, Verma said.

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