NATO standards bring consistency to UID systems

Government defense departments have found many benefits of implementing Unique Identification (UID) systems for their mission-critical inventory. With UID, each piece of equipment is marked with a Unique Item Identifier (UII) in the form of a 2D Data Matrix symbol. The UII, which is read with an automated device, is then used to track the item throughout its lifetime.  

For the U.S. Department of Defense, for example, the UID system is intended to improve management of a massive inventory that is spread across the globe. Not losing track of assets prevents unnecessary reordering of equipment and saves taxpayer money. Better tracking also improves the department’s combat readiness.

The British Ministry of Defence operates a similar UID program. Standards for the U.S. DoD program are spelled out in a document called MIL-STD-130; the British Ministry of Defence has a similar document labeled DEF STAN 05-132.

The picture becomes even more complex when different defense organizations are working together and sharing assets. To address this issue, NATO has developed its own standards for unique identification of equipment. The Allied Unique Identification of Items Publication, or AUIDP-1, was developed by a NATO task force and details the recommended methods to identify and mark items through Unique Item Identifiers and enter the data into a registry system. Doing so will improve “asset visibility, data exchange, and multi-national logistics operations,” AUIDP-1 states. More specifics are contained in a NATO Standardization Agreement, STANAG 2290.

When individual defense departments align their own UID standards, such as DEF STAN 05-132, with those of NATO, a cohesive system is created. This improves the efficiency of operations, and most importantly, enhances safety. Equipment can be located more quickly and moved to where it is needed. An item’s unique identifier can be linked to the item’s repair history and whether recommended maintenance has been performed. The use of automated systems cuts down on the amount of manual data entry, which leads to fewer mistakes.

The ability to share information about an item among organizations is a major benefit of utilizing UID systems. AUIDP-1 discusses the need for compatible information systems in order to share data. UID documents such as DEF STAN 05-132 go into extensive detail on how to implement a UID system. Topics covered include what information to include in the UII, the proper syntax to use, how to mark the 2D Data Matrix symbol and equipment, and specifications for human readable information that may accompany the symbol.

More information on various UID standards can be found at


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