February 28, 2006 11:10 AM PST

U.K. military to trial enhanced RFID tracking tags

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The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense later this year will test enhanced radio frequency identification tags readable from more than 100 feet to improve tracking of military supplies.

These "active" RFID tags will contain a small battery capable of emitting signals that increase the range from which they can be read and the amount of data that can be stored on the chip. Special readers can track these tags from more than 200 feet.

These differ from "passive" RFID chips, which track individual items from readers at a closer range, such as those used in grocery store products.

The active tags would allow the defense department to track large batches of equipment much more easily. The U.S. Department of Defense over the last 10 years has spent around $100 million using active RFID tags to track supplies sent to overseas operations on cargo ships.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense has used RFID in its logistical process and supply chain as part of its total asset visibility (TAV) program since 2002.

Adam Ingram, the U.K. defense minister, told Parliament this week: "The Ministry of Defense is currently reviewing existing capability in this area and is increasing the use of TAV in Afghanistan to support the developing operational requirement there. We plan to trial an enhanced active-RFID capability in June 2006 to assess its potential to provide further improvements in our consignment tracking capability."

The Ministry of Defense introduced RFID tracking into its supply chain after being criticized at the end of 2004 by Parliament members on the Public Accounts Committee for failing to get the correct equipment to soldiers during the invasion of Iraq, despite spending more than half a billion pounds on asset tracking systems since the first Gulf War in 1991.

The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
RFID, RFID tag, supply chain, tag, U.K.


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Oh goody
Oh goody, tags to allow military supplies to targetted for counterstrike by the enemy's next generation long range loiter antiradiation cruise missiles preprogrammed to strike at self identifying targets!

What a way to fight a war, transmit details of all military supply dumps to the enemy with your RFID transmitting tracking tags, stupidity knows no bounds!

Oh well, those who follow the dictum "best is cheap, and cheap is best" like the average modern military planner, who chooses not to learn the lessons from history about logistics in use in realtime , will be the death of us all yet!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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A little over-dramatic...don't you think
Yes, the tags transmit signals to identify their location...but the signal is a simple id number...not what you describe as "details of all military supply dumps". I'm not saying it's an impossible system to hack, but with all the RFID hype, I would ask that you try to keep your feet on the ground a little more when posting to news forums.

In order to use the data to get any usefull knowledge from the signal, you need to gain access to the database that associates the id number with the asset it is attached to. Then, if they are using encrypted tags, you will also need to break or obtain the encryption keys themselves. Once all this is done, you need to be able to capture the actual signal. To do this from more than a few hundred yards away, you'll need a superpower's budget. Then you'll need enough software equipment within those few hundred yards so that you can properly process out and filter thousands of tag beacons per second (I write these programs...trust me...it's not something your backyard regime is going to pull off very easily).

Once you finish this excercise in futility, you'll find that for tageting purposes, you already knew the depot was there or you wouldn't have gone through the headaches of setting up your hacking system. And what you'll find, is that you probably spent millions of dollars to track a toilet paper shipment.

You are now free to target the outhouse.
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