Radio Frequency Identification RFID and Its Use by and for the Military Term Paper

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RFID in the Military

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Term Paper on Radio Frequency Identification RFID and Its Use by and for the Military Assignment

Military Commanders and Leaders with responsibility for the many operational needs inherent in supply chains can gain the greatest benefit from determining the future use, selection and justification of RFID technology for use by the U.S. Army. The multifaceted missions of the U.S. Army require a continual evaluation of how to improve processes, systems and techniques to attain missions as cost-efficiently and effectively as possible through the use of proven new technologies. This requires the U.S. Army specifically and the Department of Defense (DoD) overall to continually seek out technologies that have the potential to augment existing systems and processes, making them more efficient, effective and measurable over time. One of the most complex set of processes and strategies the U.S. Army is expected to execute are their global supply chain operations. Given the magnitude of the missions of the U.S. Army, from delivering supplies and humanitarian aid to Haiti, Chile and throughout Africa to the ongoing missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, supply chain management and the many processes they encompass are essential to the U.S. Army's global effectiveness and attainment of missions. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a component of the automatic identification (Auto-ID) series of technologies and as a result relies on a series of command sets and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) purpose-built to gain insights into the traceability of assets through supply chains and distribution channels (Wang, Wang, 2009). Auto-ID technologies rely on radio frequency waves to sense and track assets tagged with compatible labels. The implications for the U.S. Army of being able to manage their supply chain operations globally with insight into which assets are in transit to which locations for which specific mission can provide traceability and visibility not possible before. The intent of this analysis is to evaluate RFID for the U.S. Army's use from a selection and justification standpoint. RFID, in the commercial sector, has proven to be a very effective technology for automating supply chains and increasing their performance. In the retailing industry specifically RFID is quickly emerging as s standard that Wal-Mart is endorsing and requiring its top 100 suppliers to support to increase the quality, speed, flexibility and cost of managing their supply chain (Goebel, Gunther, 2009). The U.S. Army will be able to likewise gain quality, speed, flexibility and cost advantages over time by adopting RFID into its supply chain processes, systems and strategies on a global scale.

Description of RFID and Related Technologies

Known most for its tags, RFID is actually an entire information system that captures, classifies and analyzes data captured from RFID tags throughout a distribution network. It is actually a system that incorporates radio frequency (RF) technology to enable communication between tags and antennas. The systems responsible for tracking the individual tags have databases that capture all tag data and asset movement over time (Cheung, Chu, Du, 2009). . Figure 1 provides an overview of an RFID system architecture.

Figure 1: Overview of an RFID System Architecture

Sources: (Cheung, Chu, Du, 2009) (Wang, Wang, 2009)

RFID systems are critically important for providing the necessary balanced scorecards of metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and analytics necessary to keep supply chains on track to attain their objectives (AMR Research, 2004). In the case of the U.S. Army these metrics of performance need to be balanced to deliver quality and speed of deployment, in a cost-effective and flexible or agile manner. An analysis of the key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics of performance that are most influenced by RFID technologies are defined later in this analysis. For the U.S. Army and their culture of measuring results for continual improvement, the quantified validation of RFID makes the calculation of Return on Investment (ROI) possible. It is an important point to keep in mind however that for ROI to be attained with an RFID information system there must be exceptional levels of integration across all components, and a defined strategy for how the tags will be used for attaining distribution, logistics, supply chain or maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) goals over time (Siedsma, 2007).

RFID tags vary significant in cost, size, complexity, capacity for storing data from the EPC command set, durability and transmit characteristics. While there is a wide variety of tags to two major classifications are Active and Passive. In the consumer products goods (CPG) and retailing industry a second type of Active tag has been under development called Active Backscatter (Carroll, Neu, 2009). Each of these types of tags is defined and their most common uses are discussed as well. By definition active RFID tags have their own power source, circuitry and radio transmitter and therefore are more expensive to produce than the Passive Backscatter tags which are reader powered. Active RFID tags that have their own power source and circuitry transmit their own radio signal and can be read at a range of up to 300 feet, while Active Backscatter tags use their power source or battery power to reflect a radio signal from a reader at between 10 and 50 feet. Passive Backscatter tags, unlike Active tags, are reader-powered as the frequency emitted from the reader is interpreted and sent back by this second class of tag. As a result the Passive Backscatter tags have a range of between 4 inches to 15 feet depending on the reader technology used. Figure 2, Anatomy of an RFID Tag illustrates how the various components of a tag are integrated together. Manufacturers of the RFID tags are differentiating their tags on the chipsets used, packaging for specific applications or uses, and the type of antenna used.

Figure 2: Anatomy of an RFID Tag

Sources: (Cheung, Chu, Du, 2009) (Wang, Wang, 2009)

Clearly for the U.S. Army the ability to define specific DoD requirements for both Active and Passive tags, and can also defines the security specifications for each as well. These considerations will contribute to the performance of RFID-enabled distribution and logistics centers in the U.S. Army over time while also ensuring a very high level of security to the RFID-tagged assets and their locations throughout supply chains globally. Customization of RFID tag technology for the specific requirements of the U.S. Army and DoD will only serve to further increase the overall effectiveness and performance of this technology globally for the armed services.

Data capacity, read/write functionality, programmability and applications are primary differentiating features of RFID tags. An overview of the various types of RFID tags are shown in Table 1: Comparison Analysis of RFID Tags. For the U.S. Army the most essential tags would be the Active RFID tags as they contain the greatest amount of data and also have a dynamic data file associated with them.

Table 1: Comparison of RFID Tags

Sources: (Cheung, Chu, Du, 2009) (Wang, Wang, 2009)

As the U.S. Army's logistics and supply chain needs are diverse and would require tags from each of these classifications with the most critical being on the most valuable assets. The use of simple EAS-based RFID tags for example on daily rations and kits including replacement parts for vehicles would be suitable, versus using the full Backscatter Active technology for armament, field hospitals and other high value assets that would be necessary to track continually through supply chains (Cheung, Chu, Du, 2009). The use of Backscatter Active tags would also be critically important for the traceability of medial supplies and needed relief kits for areas damaged by natural disaster including Haiti and Chile for example.

All RFID tags have the ability to be programmed, with the larger and more expensive Backscatter Active tags having the greatest versatility in terms of containing the EPC command set. Comparable to Electronic Programmable Read Only Memory (EPROM) in computers and peripherals, the largest RFID tags have the ability to be programmed with commands and codes that define their status as an asset in a distribution network, ownership, current repair or readiness state, and even the service record of the asset. All of these factors taken together are what gives RFID as a technology significant versatility as a solution to complex logistics and supply chain problems. The extent of programmability of a given type of RFID tag is directly related to the strength of the signal required to transmit its contents. Typically the lower-end RFID tags do not require as much power as the variables and values as defined by the EPC code programming are minimal. Often tracked in these low-end RFID labels are the manufacturing date for a given consumer product, the date it shipped from the factory, which factory it left from, and the quality assurance and quality control audit data used for managing the production and distribution of it. Conversely the larger RFID tags with their own power sources often have up to 16MB of data in some instances, with the U.S. DoD using these to track shipping containers and their many contents as they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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