The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is investigating the use of Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags in the Australian military and has started negotiations with IBM.
Confirming investigations have begun, an ADF spokesperson said the organisation is still determining how the tags will be used; implementation dates and costings are yet to be finalised.
Seeking to emulate RFID supply chain initiatives being undertaken by the US Department of Defense, the spokesperson said Australia is "closely watching" its American counterparts and "assessing international standards surrounding the technology".
In the US the Defense Department has mandated suppliers use RFID tags by January 2005 but the ADF spokesperson said there were no plans at this stage to rollout such a stringent policy directive to local suppliers.
Chair of the Australian Defence Information and Systems Association, Geoff Rhodes, said suppliers were certainly aware of steps by the ADF to introduce RFID which was seen as a "positive step" and a natural progression in the supply chain process.
A key ADF supplier, Mincom, is actively participating in this process as a provider of logistical information systems with the company's CEO Alan McElrea pointing out that RFID is just one piece of the jigsaw.
He said the issue of automatic asset identification is "very much on the radar" as the ADF is assessing the supply chain to improve in-transit visibility and is currently in the process of prioritising "ways to fill the gaps".
"Both Australia and Canada are looking at assets and logistics visibility from the movement of containers right through to operations," McElrea said.
The Army is taking the lead in the US testing RFID tags in February and using the same electronic product code (EPS) standards that Wal-Mart is requiring its top 100 suppliers to adopt.
But the Army is adding a twist to its pilot: the use of additional RFID tags equipped with battery-powered sensors that can monitor temperatures in the areas where goods are shipped and stored. Those tags are designed to ensure that food sent to troops in the field gets used before its shelf life is exceeded.