Chemicals tagged and tracked

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, is implementing an extensive wireless, sensor-based system aimed at improving the management of hazardous materials.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, is implementing an extensive wireless, sensor-based system aimed at improving the management of hazardous materials to enhance security and safety, while significantly reducing ongoing supply chain costs.

The ChemSecure pilot program integrates Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and sensor-based technology with the US Department of Defense’s existing web-based Hazardous Materials Management System (HMMS) database to automate the real-time management of hazardous materials including usage, shipment, tracking and storage.

Said to be the first project of its kind, NASA Dryden developed ChemSecure in partnership with the Department of Defense and private sector companies, including Oracle Corp, Redwood Shores, California; Intermec Technologies Corporation, Everett, Washington; EnvironMax, Inc, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Patlite (USA) Corporation of Torrance, California.

“ChemSecure’s guiding business processes and technology foundation are not limited to the hazardous materials environment. We see numerous applications for tracking of a variety of materials, in the public and private sectors, and plan to help agencies and organisations take advantage of the system,” said Ralph Anton, chemical program manager at NASA Dryden.

ChemSecure places RFID tags on hazardous material containers and uses Oracle Sensor-Based Services to capture, manage, analyse and respond to any movement or other change of the chemicals. NASA Dryden applies the real-time information in the HMMS database to make informed decisions about the transportation and storage of hazardous materials, and provides automatic alerts – text messaging, voice alerts and e-mails – to professionals in security, safety, health and environment to warn them of any changes with the chemicals.

NASA says ChemSecure utilises data captured by Intermec 750 mobile computers, IP3 RFID mobile readers and fixed RFID readers, temperature sensors, and Patlite visual response devices to ensure that managers always have access to critical chemical information. Security professionals are notified if unauthorised access attempts are made to obtain highly hazardous materials, and environmental professionals are alerted when the storage limit of a hazardous chemical locker is close to exceeding capacity.

In addition to helping organisations reduce hazardous materials management costs and errors, the ChemSecure program includes additional capabilities such as supplying critical data to emergency services so they are equipped to make timely decisions during an emergency evacuation involving a chemical spill. ChemSecure also ensures that chemicals are placed in appropriate and safe locations to avoid adverse reactions with other chemicals. It can also check if personnel are properly authorised and trained to work with the chemicals.

“The ChemSecure pilot is a great example of how organisations can leverage connecting the physical world to the information world to improve operations, enhance business processes and reduce costs,” said Allyson Fryhoff, vice president of Oracle Sensor-Based Services.

“RFID and other sensor-based technologies can present many new challenges regarding information management. It’s imperative that organisations have the appropriate information infrastructure in place to meet these demands.”

NASA Dryden is planning a second phase of the ChemSecure project that will provide enhanced features for scrutinising all vehicles entering and leaving unguarded access points and for maintaining full inventory management throughout the facility, extending the homeland security element of this project.