Georgia Southern Professor Proposes RFID-Based National Truck Tracking System

STATESBORO, Ga. -- A small device the size of a TV remote control may become a key element in homeland security if an idea proposed by Georgia Southern University professor Bob Cook is accepted.

Every day, millions of commercial trucks travel the nation's highways. Homeland security officials are looking for a system to keep track of this massive volume of traffic. Cook is proposing a system that would incorporate cutting-edge radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, truck weigh- stations and law enforcement vehicles into a system to gather information for a proposed national truck tracking center.

Cook's suggestion is to attach a small RFID unit with its own identification code to each truck and container. Every time a truck passes through a weigh-station, an electronic reader would sense the RFID devices and feed the truck and container's location into a national truck tracking computer system. Cook also proposes to equip law enforcement vehicles with RFID sensors. The sensors would then collect truck tracking information in the normal course of their patrols and transmit it back to a computer system.

The RFID devices measure only a few inches in size and cost less than $15.

"RFID is catching fire in the transportation industry," said Tom Armstrong, director of strategic development and information technology for the Georgia Ports Authority, which is working with Cook on the project. "We at the Georgia Ports Authority are looking to the day when there is a national infrastructure in place, and even further down the road, an international infrastructure that can capitalize on RFID possibilities."

RFID is not new technology, but Cook's proposal is a new application.

Cook assembled a prototype system and successfully tested it at a weigh- station on Interstate 16 near Savannah, Ga. He worked with the Georgia Ports Authority, a trucking company and a major retail distributor.

Cook says his system has benefits in addition to the homeland security questions. Anyone involved in shipping, transporting or receiving cargo would be able to track their delivery. Cook also says his proposal ties in closely with the Georgia Department of Transportation's (DOT) plans for electronic highways. Georgia is an innovator in Smart Highway technology.

"The bottom line is that Georgia was already an innovator of e-highways before I started this project. Basically, I'm just trying to expand and promote the idea," Cook said.