Army Mobility Asset Tracking System

By Jarrett, William D. | Army, May 2012 | Go to article overview

Army Mobility Asset Tracking System


Jarrett, William D., Army


The U. S. Army and Department of Defense generally ride the technology wave when it comes to deploying capabilities to project combat power globally. Some military logistics operations, however, remain hampered by labor-intensive manual processes and technologies developed in the 1980s and 1990s. The U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency (LIA) set out to change that by coinmissioning a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology exploration project named Next Generation Wireless Communications (NGWC) for logistics applications. The aim was to first determine the state of technology relative to automatic identification technology (AJT) and then to integrate promising state-of-the-art technologies and exploit the results to move military logistics into the 21st century.

In simple terms, NGWC is about providing better and more frequent communication with and tracking of valuable assets, equipment and supplies that we employ to project military power around the globe. NGWC was born out of the idea that if tracking tags could communicate with and through other tags, thus forming a network, asset visibility could be extended beyond nodal /choke point reads and into the logistics business processes.

LIA recognized quite early that the major challenges to achieving the desired end state for NGWC were information assurance (IA) compliance and long battery life for tags that would be placed on containers and assets without internal power sources. Connectivity to a smartphone is made possible because the people who use the technology can and will plug in the device to recharge it on a regular basis. Any solution coming out of the NGWC project had to ensure long battery life while also protecting the global information grid.

Very early in the project, LIA focused on ad hoc meshnetworking technology as the potential solution to the problem. A study of more than 80 mesh-networking solutions from commercial and private vendors and academia showed that the state of the technology was advancing, but there was not a single solution designed with consideration for military applications. LIA drove the NGWC project by a very strict set of Army /DoD requirements for IA compliance, long battery life, affordability and reduction in human/soldier workload. By the end of the first year of the NGWC project, LIA determined that while industry was advancing in the COTS chipsets and sensor technology arena, there wasn't an existing protocol that could support the requirements.

In April 2007, LIA conducted the NGWC Capstone Demonstration at Fort Belvoir, Va., to show the power of continuous visibility using a mesh-networking solution to extend visibility beyond nodal. Expanding on the initial demonstration, LIA, in concert with U.S. Transportation Command, developed the Army Mobility Asset Tracking System (AMATS) capability.

AMATS was first used during the Joint Logistics Over The Shore (JLOTS) exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in June 2009. During the Association of the U. S. Army's Sustainment Symposium and Exhibition in Richmond, Va., the deputy commanding general, Army Materiel Command (DCG AMC) was invited to a live remote demonstration of the NGWC mesh protocol. A laptop more than 200 miles from the exercise site provided near-real-time and continuous visibility of containers and equipment being processed during JLOTS, enabling the DCG to watch the buildup of combat power ashore. Within a week, the NGWC team was briefing the DCG and his staff at AMC headquarters.

Since that initial meeting, AMC has been on a deliberate path to deploy the NGWC mesh protocol to provide endto-end visibility of the retrograde process for Operation New Dawn (OND). In February 2011, LIA, in coordination with AMC, conducted a proof of principle (PoP) at the Lot 58 wash rack at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to show the art of the possible - how the NGWC protocol, while still in development, was already advanced to the point that it enabled continuous visibility (that is, communication) with assets while in a logistics business process. …

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