Special Operations forces have begun using magnetic signals to keep track of their weapons.
Visible Assets Inc. recently received a $5 million order from the Defense Department for its system to be used on the SCAR-H battle rifle. The company’s Allegro technology combines RuBee wireless identification tags, a shot counter and a custom chip that includes, among other things, an amplifier.
Together, these components are meant to provide rapid inventory assessments and measurements of a weapon’s health.
“A weapon is not a simple device,” said Visible Assets CEO John Stevens. Each time a rifle is fired, metals crash against each other. “It’s being broken every day . . . If you can’t measure something, you can’t fix it.”
The technology provides a usage snapshot for a weapon the way an odometer would for a car. But it gets even more detailed than that, Stevens explained. It can tell a user when a weapon is about to jam and predict other failures before they occur. It pinpoints erosion on the barrels and cracked bolts and takes into account the differences between single shots and automatic fire.
“It’s not just the number of shots, but how those shots have been fired,” Stevens said. The system can tell how experienced shooters are by the way they hold their weapons.
But the automated inventory function is what has driven a lot of Visible Assets’ business, especially in the Middle East where governments have seen many weapons go missing.
The wireless tags allow small arms to be accounted for in real time. The weapons can be placed on “smart” racks that contain antennas. Someone also can walk around a storage facility waving a rod like a wand to take inventory.