The Pentagon is Spending Big on RFID Tech

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The military is spending millions on RFID to track supplies, vehicles and other shipments, and recently exercised a second option on a $102 million RFID contract.

The U.S. military ships a lot of stuff around the globe—including ammunition, computer hardware, vehicles and other supplies—and the Pentagon is increasingly turning to radio-frequency identification to track its assets.

Last month, the Pentagon exercised a final-year option on its RFID contract, which has a total ceiling value of $102 million. Around the same time, the Virginia-based contractor operating the contract, Savi, announced two major orders totaling 48,000 active RFID tags to unnamed Defense agencies.

“These orders continue to signal strong support for the use of active RFID devices within the in-transit visibility network,” said Rosemary Johnston, senior vice president of operations for Savi, in a statement. “Through improved visibility, the DoD and international military logisticians are able to make timely decisions on parts availability for critical weapon system maintenance, and timely delivery of food, clothing, munitions, and fuel without the need to order 'just in case' safety stocks.”

In a call with Nextgov, Johnston said the most common military use of Savi’s RFID products is tracking containers, pallets and other objects shipping overseas for in-transit visibility. Johnston said the company’s software continually passes data to the Defense Department to reduce supply chain concerns, such as ensuring important parts will arrive in time for maintenance.

“We allow the services to take advantage of their inventory levels without having to buy excess inventory,” Johnston said.

Savi is the sole provider of RFID solutions to the Defense Department on the RFID 4 contract vehicle. Johnston said the company is adding new features to its RFID technology, offering internet of things sensors that translate data through cellular transmission capabilities. In a partnership with ORBCOMM, which provides machine-to-machine solutions, the companies will add high-performance cellular tags alongside Savi’s existing visibility and analytics capabilities.

The tags make use of waterproof solar panels that provide continuous power to rechargeable batteries for up to five years.

“Savi is excited to share our communications-capable IoT sensor technology, which provides lower-cost, in-transit visibility wherever the U.S. military needs it,” Johnston said. “Savi’s goal is to help government and militaries support mission readiness, avoid supply chain disruptions and control inventory costs. We believe our new IoT sensors will be a good supplement to today’s robust active RFID network.”