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GCN : June 2015
[BrieFing] GCN JUNE 2015 • GCN.COM 7 METRC.COM marijuana plants, it cited radio fre- quency identification as the preferred technology. Getting to a functional system took a while — a 2011 con- tract was shelved because of budget shortfalls, and state officials and growers were still scrambling as legal- ization took effect on Jan. 1, 2014 — but Colorado’s Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution now requires every plant and every bag to be tagged for RFID. Growers are responsible for tagging their inventory and logging the data into the state’s online system. Franwell, a firm that specializes in RFID, used technology the company had developed for air cargo and fresh food tracking to create a system for tracing Colorado’s marijuana plants. Franwell CEO Jeff Wells said track- ing marijuana is different from other products because it requires such a high level of regulation. “In all of our experience, and we’ve been working in supply chains for a few decades, I don’t know another system that exists where a regulatory body is assigning a serial number for each and every box of cucumbers, for example,” he said. “But, then again, it’s not dangerous enough.... It’s not federally illegal [to grow and ship] cucumbers.” Growers in Colorado have com- plained about the cost of the tags and the hassles of logging their inventory data with the state, but Wells said RFID speeds up the inspection process and provides security because the tags are difficult to counterfeit. “Someone can take a handheld [de- vice] to a facility and do a spot check a lot easier than with a bar code,” he said. “They can read many, many plants in seconds and quickly verify against what they have reported in the system.” • Nanosatellite can act as ‘cell phone tower in space’ BY MARK POMERLEAU DUCOMMUN.COM SMDC-Orbital Nanosatellite Effect In an effort to bolster communications capabilities, the Army will deploy nanosatellites to get around problems associated with “over the hill” visibil- ity in remote areas. The first nanosatellite developed by the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command — the SMDC-Orbital Nano- satellite Effect — is already in orbit. “It’s basically a cellphone tower in space, except it’s not for cell phones, it’s for Army radios,” said Travis Tay- lor, senior scientist at SMDC’s Space Division. Larger imaging satellites, which would still fall into the “nano” cat- egory, could join the SMDC-ONE. They are capable of identifying a tank or a truck on Earth from orbit. Military officials hope to deploy an entire constellation of nanosatel- lites. “If we put five to 12 of these small satellites in orbit, it will cover most areas soldiers are operating, provid- ing them real-time, all-the-time communications,” Taylor told the Army News Service. Nanosatellites in low-Earth orbit — approximately 1,200 miles above Earth’s surface on the high end — would provide soldiers in remote locations with radio access. Low- Earth orbit brings the nanosatellites approximately 60 times closer to the Earth than geosynchronous commu- nication satellites, so they can relay weak signals from handheld radios, according to a briefing given by Taylor in 2013. And nanosatellites are not just for communications. They can be used to track environmental conditions, illegal logging or a change in the course of a river, and in space, they can detect solar and cosmic radiation or interactions between magnetic fields, according to the Economist. In addition, the satellites also provide greater accuracy in space weather reporting, which can protect more expensive satellites and prevent astronauts from being exposed to high radiation doses. And they enable real-time tracking for ships, which broadcast identifica- tion signals that can be picked up by nanosatellites flying in low-Earth orbit. • 0615gcn_006-009.indd 7 6/4/15 11:11 AM