What is a UID?

A UID is a Unique Identifier, which is a globally unique sequence of characters or numbers that is assigned to a single item. UIDs can be assigned to anything that needs to be distinguished from other items, and they are typically auto-generated at random using an algorithm. Unique identifiers are most popular in physical supply chains in order to keep track of and interact with individual components. An entire product or piece of equipment is physically marked with a UID to allow users to trace back its origin in case a defect, malfunction, or other type of issue occurs.

The UID was created by the United States Department of Defense to secure more accountability for their assets. Each asset that is purchased or owned by the government receives a unique serial number that will be associated with it throughout its entire useful life. This serial number is presented in a rectangular 2D barcode, known as the data matrix code. Although it can be read by a scanner, this code looks different than the traditional string of spaces and bars you’d usually associate with a barcode. The distinct marking was established by the Department of Defense Standard Practice 130, “Identification Marking of U.S. Military Property,” in 2004.

Other Acronyms of UID

Within the DOD, there are other acronyms that are associated with unique identifiers and the marking of government property. UID is also often known as:

  • IUID, Item Unique Identification. There is an IUID registry that stores information about assets for the DOD, including how to maintain, track, and deploy government property. The key purpose to this registry is to have a single location where information about what the DOD owns can be accessed and stored, which makes it much easier to comply with military condition tags and other military marking standards.
  • UII, Unique Item Identifier. This refers to the item’s entry value in a database. UIIs are typically machine-readable and often come in the form of barcodes. They help contractors digitally track an item throughout its entire lifecycle.

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