During the war on Iraq, the "smart" weapons employed by the United States got plenty of coverage. But one category of smart tools gained scant notice from the general public: barcode scanners and other logistics and material handling technology used to ensure that supply lines kept up with the troops.
Among the tools used by the military were scanners supplied to the Department of Defense by Symbol Technologies. The datacapture equipment manufacturer provi ded the military with ruggedized wireless mobile computers like Symbol's PDT 7240, which combines bar-code scanning and wireless local area network communications. The military uses the equipment to track, manage and deploy equipment and supplies to Marine units.
Symbol says the PDT 7240 offers several advantages for military use. It has a large touch-screen display that accommodates a virtual keypad. It is environmentally sealed against windblown dust and rain, and it can withstand repetitive drops to concrete surfaces. It also has a quick-release battery and systems to hold data while the battery is changed.
Symbol has supplied equipment to the military for more than 25 years, says Tom Roslak, the company's vice president of homeland security. Early on, he says, the company supplied equipment used in tracking blood supplies. As the business evolved, the military began to ask for other equipment that would stand up to harsh environments and treatment.
The military uses two-dimensional PDF 417 bar codes (which Symbol developed) on many of the containers shipped toward the front lines. Roslak explains that those codes contain descriptions of what the containers hold. "It's very convenient, with the huge number of containers, to scan and know."