Top U.S. ports to get RFID upgrades

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has awarded Unisys Corp. a task order worth as much as $62.2 million over five years to deploy readers and other technologies to support the use of radio frequency identification tags on new identification cards at the U.S. borders.

Unisys of Blue Bell, Pa., will install technology upgrades to enable border patrol agents at the 39 largest land border ports of entry to read new RFID cards as well as to read license plates, the agency said in a news release. The new identification cards include the State Department's upcoming passport card under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, as well as for a hybrid driver's license and border card to be produced by Washington State and possibly other states and Canadian provinces.

Customs awarded the task order under the Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for the Leading Edge Solutions contract program. It was competed among 16 vendors in a category covering infrastructure engineering design, development, implementation and integration services.

Unisys will support the use of so-called vicinity RFID, which is an ultra-high frequency form of radio frequency that can be read at distances of 20 feet. The RFID tags, embedded in the passport cards and enhanced driver's license, will be scanned automatically by readers at the border. Homeland Security Department officials have said they selected the long-range RFID because it enables speedier processing of traffic at the borders.

To protect privacy, the RFID tags on the passport card and enhanced driver's licenses will transmit a reference number that must be matched to a CBP database to obtain personal information on the holder of the card or license.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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