Military applications of RFID have usually involved sophisticated monitoring of high cost and high sensitivity assets. Most of the work has been done in the US but the Danish, UK and other military forces are also involved and the scope is rapidly widening to include error prevention e.g. with tagging of patients and blood. Military forces are surprisingly reluctant to adopt contactless smart cards however.
Having spent $600 million on its Joint Total Asset Visibility program over ten years and getting over 270,000 containers and assets tagged with sophisticated $30 read write, 30 metre range RFID tags in the process, the US Military mimicked Wal-Mart in late 2003 by demanding that its top 100 suppliers EPC tag all pallets and cases by January 2005. The sophisticated tags variously monitor temperature, humidity or movement as well as RFID. By contrast, the pallet/case tags will be like the Wal-Mart ones i.e. UHF and up to 3 metres' range with 128 bits of read-only EPC data and no sensing. At item level, the official position is that passive RFID must be put on all items requiring unique identification. Pilots are in progress on this.
"Logistical problems during Desert Storm more than a decade ago led the USA Department of Defense to deploy RFID technologies and software on the internet to improve real-time visibility and management of military supplies", said Mark McGlade, Savi's EMEA managing director. In Desert Storm barcodes were used to tag 30,000 plus containers, but these were quickly worn away under the desert conditions and each container had to be opened for its contents to be revealed. Since then, the US Military have invested $600 million in technologies to help overcome this in future - a project called JTAV (Joint Total Asset Visibility). Active tags are used for real time location of containers, but eventually the military wish to tag each individual item - and ID is not always sufficient. It is also demanding sensors to prove temperature excursions, shock, pressure and so on.