Better Mission Planning

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2004-11-15 Print this article Print

As a result, Marines in the field—basically, any Marine with a .mil e-mail address—will be able to access RFID information detailing, for example, when a piece of gear was put on an air pallet—and the possible time and day it will arrive at its destination.

"That was something you never saw before," said Tony Brill, team leader with the TDIS group and a consultant with Northrop Grumman Corp., the Los Angeles-based systems integrator on the Marines RFID project. "Thats not just transporters [who will have access to information], but engineers and mechanics waiting for gear, so they can plan their mission out better."

The results of a recent field test have been "outstanding," proving the ability to track cargo moving from a U.S. base to its air deployment location with the Army and then track containers through countries and from base to base, said Brill.

That capability did not come without preparatory work. Cooper and Brill are in the process of implementing an RFID infrastructure at more than 40 military bases globally.

The two men are tasked with visiting each site and mapping, essentially, the lay of the land—where a fixed site needs to be put up, where equipment is moving in and out of, if there is a rail head, and where the multiple gates and staging locations are.

"Our requirement was to have equipment installed by the end of the year, on Jan. 1," said Brill. "It looks like were going to meet that."

The next step is to tie in multiple sources of information with the RFID information that is being collected. Currently, RFID information is uploaded to an ITV (In Transit Visibility) server, which takes the data and sends it off to the militarys GTN (Global Transportation Network). Since GTN tracks the strategic leg—the point of embarkation to the point of demarcation—it is part of the Marines joint initiative with the Army on this project.

Unlike the commercial sector, which is working frantically to pound out RFID standards, the military has that aspect down cold.

"There is only one way to write a tag," said Cooper. "The Army is feeding information up the same way the Marines are."

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