Satellite tags track critical cargo

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Radio frequency identification (RFID) hardware, software and services have enabled the Army to make a quantum leap in cargo and vehicle tracking since the last Gulf War, but for critical payloads entering remote, hostile areas, the service is relying on satellite tags.

Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics information management here for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), said the technology provided by the Vistar Datacom division of NSI Global Inc. has been installed on about 500 vehicles and containers throughout southwest Asia that are traveling to places where RFID interrogators can't track their movements.

The Vistar GlobalWave units include a Global Positioning System satellite receiver and antenna and a long-life battery stored in a heavy-duty box that is affixed to the critical cargo with six magnets, Burke said. The tags can be tracked every 30 to 60 minutes with the data relayed back to a server here, he said.

"We can see where the trucks are going, the number of [vehicles] and when they're going into Iraq," Burke said during a March 30 interview. "There are a few in field convoys and on other critical shipments. We use them when we don't have [RFID] interrogators to see." Burke said he could not provide any other details for operational security reasons.

GlobalWave uses existing satellites to relay two-way, low-speed data bursts between the sensors on the mobile Army assets and computers in the CFLCC operations center.

The Defense Department has also been using Vistar's satellite data communication terminals to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Army and Air Force used an initial 165 GlobalWave units for tracking supply convoys or containers being shipped from Germany to Afghanistan on rail cars, according to an October 2002 release from NSI.

The terminals are being supplied by Montreal-based NSI's value-added reseller, Corp Ten International to Titan Corp. for deployment by DOD. Network services are being provided by DataStar, NSI's regional operator of the GlobalWave system for the Middle East, according to the NSI release.

In addition to the extensive satellite coverage in southwest Asia, DOD also required GlobalWave's power management capability, which can last up to three years without recharging or connection to a power source, according to NSI.

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