I.D. Systems, in collaboration with Symbol Technologies, is shooting to produce a prototype wireless tracking system for airport cargo and baggage handling. The Transportation Security Administration contract is aimed at tracking the vehicles that handle the cargo.
“TSA has basically collaborated with I.D. Systems and Symbol to integrate what I.D. Systems does, which is wireless vehicle tracking, with what Symbol does, which is cargo tracking,” said Ken Ehrman, I.D. Systems’ president.
He couldn’t divulge the amount of the contract because of TSA requirements, he said. While development of the system has started, Mr. Ehrman said he didn’t know when, or where, the prototype would be installed.
“We hope to have it completed by September,” he added. He said it “will have broad flexibility” for all companies having to meet government specifications for employing RFID and creating mobile RFID portals.
The goal is to integrate RFID-based cargo and baggage tracking into the company’s Wireless Asset Net vehicle tracking system. I.D. Systems will develop the mobile, baggage tracking system in which “intelligent” containers are able to identify and locate items tagged with EPC-compliant RFID tags and communicate that data through I.D. Systems’ vehicle management network. Symbol will provide the EPC-compliant tags and readers.
The Wireless Asset Net consists of programmable vehicle-mounted wireless devices called Vehicle Asset Communicators (VACs), a patented communication infrastructure, and client-server software for access control and real-time location tracking.
Under the TSA-funded project, I.D. Systems is to develop two new products: a new version of its vehicle-mounted VAC that integrates an EPC-compliant RFID reader, and a standalone Tag Aggregator that mounts on cargo and baggage containers.
With an integrated RFID reader, the VAC will track the identity and time-stamped routes of RFID-tagged items transported by the vehicle, as well as the location of the vehicle itself and the identities of vehicle operators.
This approach, according to I.D. Systems, would help identify and locate containers and their contents when those containers are either out of range of a wireless network or in between stationary RFID reader points.
I.D. Systems essentially becomes a conduit. “You’re leveraging that wireless network to know not just where the vehicles are but what’s in the container that the vehicle is transporting. So you’re adding a new level of information to it with this level of integration,” said Mr. Ehrman.
According to company information, the proposed system design has three elements.
First, the container-mounted wireless device will aggregate data from a practically unlimited number of RFID-tagged items, enabling location tracking of both the container itself and its RFID-tagged contents.
That involves utilizing an I.D. systems tag, “an active tag that’s battery operated with a 500- to 1,000-foot range, and plugging it into a reader that would read any type of EPC-compliant RFID tag,” said Mr. Ehrman.
The second step would make mobile RFID portals out of material-handling vehicles, such as baggage tractors, thus increasing the location tracking range for tagged items. That, according to the company, reduces the number of fixed-position RFID readers required in a facility, while increasing the visibility and security of RFID-tagged items.
“You’ll have an I.D. tag on a baggage tractor, cargo handler, or belt loader, essentially creating a portable, EPC-compliant reader,” said Mr. Ehrman.
Finally, it leverages I.D. Systems’ existing RF infrastructure to communicate data back to local or wide area networks.
With an EPC standard tag, it’s basically going low-end, with an EPC tag being read by a Symrol/Matrics RFID reader, he said. The I.D. Systems Tag Aggregator device will power the reader and send all tag data to a centralized database. “Essentially, you have an I.D. Systems Tag Aggregator on a container with a Symrol/Matrics reader, so when bags or cargo are loaded, the system will know about it,” said Mr. Ehrman.
“Unlike other approaches to RFID tracking, which depend heavily on constant wireless network connectivity and continuous communication with a single control point, our patented system of ‘distributed intelligence’ will enable autonomous wireless hardware on both vehicles and containers to track RFID-tagged items without regard to immediate network availability,” said I.D. Systems Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Jagid. “We see this integrated vehicle/container/item-level tracking system as a way to significantly increase asset visibility, not only for homeland security applications like baggage tracking, but also for broad supply chain applications.”