Radio-frequency identification tags allow operators to scan and track assets. The tags send product numbers to electronic readers. The technology is similar to the barcode scanners used by retail stores.
Omni-ID has released a passive tag that can be detected by a reader more than 100 feet away. This is considered exceptional for a tag that operates without a battery, says RFIDWizards.com, a website that tests and reviews RFID tags.
California-based Omni-ID spun off from the British defense company QinetiQ three years ago when researchers there found a way to transmit radio signals at greater distances and in harsher environments.
Omni’s new tags also work anywhere in the world. This is a valuable feature because many countries use different radio spectrums to track supplies.
“Getting equipment around the globe, into warehouses, and then into a combat-ready situation is quite a challenge,” says Thomas C. Pavela, Omni’s CEO and president. “I hate to say it, but the military doesn’t know where everything is, and we believe we can help.”
Omni’s tags use complex layers of metals — called a plasmatic structure — that can capture radio signals. Signals captured inside the tags gather around the tags’ microchips, where they then burst from the chips like water breaking through a dam.
This technology, which is patented in the United Kingdom and is awaiting approval in the United States, leads to stronger radio signals that travel farther and work on liquids and metals, Pavela says.
The Marines have tested the Omni-ID Max HD, which has a 40-foot read range and performs in extreme-weather conditions. Pavela says military officials have also expressed interest in the Omni-ID Ultra, which has a 115-foot read range.
“All of that equipment coming out of Iraq is going to be redeployed in Afghanistan,” he adds. “You’ve got to be able to find it.”