RFID Talk Blog

Arlington National Cemetery may trial RFID on caskets

RFID is quickly becoming a cradle-to-grave technology. Newborn babies are often tagged with RFID-enabled wristbands to ensure security and identification as they are moved around the nursery.

Now comes news that the U.S. government is considering using RFID tags to track caskets and cremation urns at Arlington National Cemetery from the time they arrive until six months after the assets are interred.

Last month the U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTC) Logistics Enabling Support Division issued a request for information (RFI) for tracking solutions. The deadline for submitting RFIs is March 2.

ANC is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families throughout its 624 acres. The cemetery conducts nearly 7,000 funeral services a year.

According to the RFI, cemetery workers will apply tags to the side of a casket or cremation urn. Tags must have user read/write memory, with up to 10 data elements of information being written to the tag by cemetery personnel upon arrival of the casket or cremation urn.

Since the tags will remain on the casket or cremation urn, which may be buried underground in a concrete grave liner, the tags must be able to be read at depths up to nine feet and in varying soil types and conditions for at least six months. Typical soil composition for Arlington is sand, silt, and clay with various levels of water saturation, which may be frozen at times. The tag should operate in listen mode for any signal and only transmit to the desired query signal.

The USTC would prefer that an iPad or iPhone be used as the handheld device to communicate with the tags.

This isn’t the first time that RFID has been considered as an end-of-life solution. In 2012, RFID 4-7 reported that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland was considering tagging corpses with RFID. Aside from enabling better record keeping, such a solution would enable the office to increase organ donations by 50 to 75 percent.

By automating the process, transplant specialists could use time and temperature measurements to more reliably determine the viability of organs for transplant.

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