Ultra-wideband dealing in arms

Ultra-wideband technology, originally developed by the military and kept secret for years, could be used to determine whether cargo containers have been used to smuggle terrorist weapons, according to CACI International Inc. officials.

In fact, the technology company is so sure of its application that it has filed a patent application for monitoring the contents of sealed shipping containers using ultra-wideband techniques.

CACI's device uses a battery to emit a digital signal that can be read from a short distance away by handheld devices outside the containers. The instrument can determine if the container inventory has been moved, increased or tampered with in any way.

CACI developed the monitoring methodology in cooperation with Advanced Resources Corp. (ARC) of Culpeper, Va., and Multispectral Solutions Inc. of Germantown, Md.

"Because it is a digital signal, it can escape a container and give us a reliable method for reading it," said Russ Tice, president of ARC.

The technology is one of many the Homeland Security Department is exploring as it looks for new technologies to protect cargo containers shipped to U.S. ports.

"It is not being used like this anywhere," Tice said. "That is why CACI has a patent application on this technology."

Company officials are talking with supply chain vendors about using ultra-wideband to build a secure solution for cargo containers, said Jeff Renard, vice president of CACI's Logistics Support Division.

The digital signal is sent from a tag that costs less than $30. It can provide information about such environmental variables as temperature and humidity, but it also can signal if there is a change in the environment of a sealed container caused by a foreign object such as a newly placed weapon or if someone has tampered with the container.

Unlike other signals, it does not have a carrier frequency and can be read by a sensor held within range of the container, Renard said.

It can also alert inspectors about damage or leakage of hazardous materials before they reach toxic levels.

Ultra-wideband was originally used by the military in locations like the Middle East, where difficult transport conditions made it critical to assess the condition of incoming supplies such as ammunition.

But it is the first time reliable data signals have successfully been transmitted from inside a sealed container without modifying the container, according to CACI officials.

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