RFID Talk Blog

Lockheed moves toward IoT future by deploying RF Controls’ reader

In a major coup for tiny startup RF Controls, Lockheed Martin has signed a contract with the firm to install its proprietary antenna system to track assets for Lockheed’s Lightning II program, a 5th Generation fighter combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility.

RF Controls CEO Tom Ellinwood said that the deal is worth $400,000 and will likely lead to more contracts in the future. RF Controls had revenue of just $1 million in 2013. The company has raised $30 million from investors, and expects sales to double in 2014.

Lockheed Martin will use overhead antenna readers from RF Controls to track tools and components used during assembly of its Lightning II fighter jets.

Lockheed deployed the solution to track aircraft tools, parts kits and aircraft components at its massive manufacturing facility in Dallas after a two-year pilot. About 30 of the RF Controls antennae are deployed, one for each of the 30 production stages throughout the nearly one-mile long plant.

Lockheed Martin sees the deployment as a step toward its goal of automating 1.2 million transactions a day based on the precise location of parts used during assembly.

“Lockheed plans to automatically feed the data read from UHF Gen 2 RFID tags into its SAP system, which then interfaces immediately with accounting records,” said RF Controls CEO Tom Ellinwood. “Their goal is to eliminate all keyboards from the manufacturing floor and automate all of their transactions based on proximity.”

RF Controls’ primary product line is a smart antenna system called the Intelligent Tracking and Control System that can read passive RFID tags from great distances, making it possible to cover an entire warehouse or manufacturing facility without deploying hundreds of handheld readers.

Lockheed will use the solution to achieve real-time, perpetual monitoring of a production stage by “illuminating” the area where tagged items are moved or stored. The solution is expected to fundamentally change the way Lockheed tracks and manages assets while reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and enhancing workplace safety.

“Working with Lockheed Martin provides the ultimate validation of our technology in the marketplace given their long history of innovation particularly using RFID,” says Ellinwood.

ITCS employs advanced antenna systems, complex mathematical algorithms and signal processing techniques, similar to those which have been applied to military target tracking systems, and greatly enhances the utility of passive UHF RFID systems from nodal (portal) to zonal monitoring, covering a wide area (or volume) using strategically placed integrated antenna arrays.

Applications for ITCS span the identification and tracking of inventory, capital assets, tools and people, with passive UHF tags attached to items to be identified and tracked. The retail sector, where hundreds of handheld readers are often deployed for item level tracking, has long been a primary target for RF Controls.

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