Information Papers

Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems with Radio Frequency Identification Technology

What is it?
Micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) are technologies that combine modern electronics with mechanical systems on a small scale to sense, control, and act on changing events. MEMS sensors trigger proactive alerts for conditions that exceed temperature, humidity, vibration, shock, and light thresholds. When integrated with active radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, these systems track and monitor shelf life and environmental factors affecting assets. MEMS RFID devices improve the Army’s ability to preserve materiel in storage and in transit for readiness and timeliness of Soldier support.

What has the Army done?
To demonstrate MEMS RFID capability, the Army Logistics Innovation Agency led two sensor pilot demonstrations targeting high pay-off areas. First, the long-term storage condition of assets in deployable medical systems was monitored at the Sierra Army Depot in California; second, the in-transit nodal condition of medical sets, kits, and outfits shipped from the Army Medical Materiel Center–Europe to customer destinations in the U. S. Central Command area of operations was monitored. This demonstration was conducted in partnership with Product Manager Joint-Automatic Identification Technology (PM J-AIT).
The demonstrations validated that sensor technology is well-suited for long-term storage and in-transit visibility condition monitoring. The sensor data were more accurate and actionable than data from indicators currently in use today for long-term storage. Alerts received via radio frequency in-transit visibility (RF-ITV) or e-mail while assets were in transit provided actionable information about the materiel before it was received downrange.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
PM J-AIT is working to fully integrate MEMS RFID technology into RF-ITV. The medical community is exploring further uses of sensors and associated alert capabilities for monitoring medical chemical defense materiel and is collaborating with PM J-AIT, the Office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Central Command, and other stakeholders to identify requirements for fielding, sustainment, and user training. Headquarters, Army Materiel Command is working with PM J-AIT to implement sensor security tags in all deployable medical systems at the Sierra Army Depot.

Although the demonstrations focused on specific medical assets as high-payoff applications, MEMS RFID benefits extend to all classes of supply and logistics processes, across all services. It is clear that these capabilities are particularly appropriate for shelf life or life-limited assets such as medical and food assets; however, the applications are many and varied, and the individual merit of each application must be evaluated. Key considerations include examination of business rules, with corresponding changes to and integration of supporting automated information systems; establishment of policies and standards; and training in the schoolhouses. As sensor, RFID, and satellite-based location and tracking systems become more interoperable, these networks will help improve the quality, integrity, and safety of products while they are in storage and while they are moving through the supply chain, with improved knowledge for life-cycle tracking.

Why is this important to the Army?
The Army loses millions of dollars annually to spoilage, mishandling, and theft of supplies while in transit and in storage, in peace and in war. Many of these losses could be mitigated with automated sensor technology that monitors and reports on the condition of environmentally sensitive assets. This capability represents an important step forward in achieving efficiency and responsiveness, and in meeting the goals identified in the Army’s Joint concept of support and modernization needs articulated in the Army Campaign Plan.

Ms. J. Plinsky (703) 805-5271