Getting active and passive RFID technology to work together has been an ongoing effort of Savi Technology and the U.S. Department of Defense. The result is not a true hybrid, as it has been described. “We don’t make an active/passive tag per se, but we can capture data from both and combine it onto a single hardware or software platform,” said Savi Technology’s Mark Nelson.
As Bruce Jacquemard, executive vice president and general manager of global field operations for Savi Technology, further explained: “What’s new is the combination of the two technologies coming together. As a passive tag is designed, it has certain physical limitations, such as read range, etc. If you can take the benefits of what passive can do and combine it with active technology, you take DoD automation up to another level.” As Mr. Nelson said: “We are able to capture data from both active and passive tags in our handheld readers, and our middleware platform is able to capture data from all types of AIDC devices, from sensors on up to satellite systems, and route the right data to the desired software.”
The so-called hybrid tag “is one we’ve been supplying to the department since the mid 90s, said Mr. Jacquemard. “The requirement was for a large amount of memory. We wanted to have all the information about the contents of the container written into the memory of the active tag so it could be queried in the field. Back when it was developed passive wasn’t prominent but bar codes were.”
He added: “So we started with bar codes. Now the world is evolving to the passive tag. What DoD is doing now is nested visibility, nesting information inside something else. The same platform that has been used to accept and support bar codes item level information is now being used in pilot form to accept passive tag data.”
According to Savi, its nested visibility solution combines “Savi’s active RFID with other industry passive RFID” allowing companies to gain “item level visibility from top-to-bottom of the shipment and from end-to-end in the supply chain.” The components include RFID passive tags, a dual-read handheld reader designed to read passive tags up to 20 feet away, and Savi’s 433 MHZ active tags and seals, accessible from 330 feet. A key component for making this happen is the Universal Data Appliance Protocol (UDAP) which enables all kinds of AIDC data – including from passive and active tags – to be understood by various middleware and software applications.
Individual cartons or items are tagged with EPC-compliant passive tags, which are read using a handheld reader. A manifest document supplying detailed information about the item is created and transferred to, for example, the Savi SmartChain platform, via UDAP. The RFID tagged item is then placed in a larger shipping container sealed with an active tag. As the container moves from one location to another, RFID readers capture the data and relay it onto the software, which tells users the identification, location and status of the shipment. Active seals, often called E-Seals, also can alert users in real-time whether tampering has occurred during transport.
“We provide an active network to DoD in 46 countries,” said Mr. Jacquemard. “What they want is visibility inside the container. DoD has issued a policy mandate that says it is incorporating passive tags. If you’re supplying DoD, you want to put passive tags on pallets or cartons.”
Rather than being a hybrid tag, it is really a process that has been extended “to support the active tag infrastructure with passive RFID item-level detail,” he added. “The active tag platform with its vast amount of memory becomes the communication platform that carries the passive detail.”
The bottom line – “by combining these two technologies, you have visibility as to what’s inside that particular asset.”
Savi Technology is a global supply chain security and real-time asset management company with a customer base that includes the DoD, and numerous international ports, terminal operators, carriers, asset owners and third party logistics providers. Savi is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with offices in Johannesburg, London, Singapore, Washington D.C., and Sydney, Australia.