Watch out for RFID

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As previous years may have been dubbed the year of ‘Collaboration’ or perhaps, ‘ERP’, there can be little doubt that 2005 will be exalted as ‘the year of RFID’. And although it may be tempting to dismiss this prominent subject as just ‘hype’, elevated to disproportionate heights by over zealous management consultants, it’s worth noting that Radio Frequency Identification has moved beyond the tentative trial stages at a few leading retailers and is now being rolled out in major projects.

Wal-Mart, Metro, Marks & Spencer and now Tesco are all heavily committed to the advancement of this technology. Wal-Mart’s initial pilot project launched last April involving 21 products, seven local Supercentres and eight key suppliers has now been extended to 137 suppliers over three Texas distribution centres serving 90 Wal-Mart stores and 31 Sam’s Club locations in Texas as well as 16 Wal-Mart stores and five Sam’s Club outlets in Oklahoma.

UK supermarket Tesco, too, has embraced RFID with its recent announcements of both an extension to the company’s itemlevel DVD RFID tagging scheme and one of the largest ever orders for EPC-compliant RFID readers and antennae – some 4,000 readers and 16,000 antennae. It appears quite evident that radio frequency identification has achieved critical momentum and with such powerful advocates of the technology the way seems set for broader adoption.

This is not to say that all is now plain sailing for wide spread implementation of RFID. Issues still surround this burgeoning technology, such as readability of tags in close proximity to liquid product, concerns over tag costs and serious analysis of ROI. However, a critical issue, that of standards, has moved ahead decisively with the ratification late last year of the Class One Generation Two (C1G2) tag/reader interface
specification as an EPCglobal standard.

No doubt there are many who may dismiss this technology as futuristic, too expensive or just inapplicable to their business, but complacency holds no security for the future. In the right applications considerable competitive advantage can be gained through the use of RFID. All would be well advised to keep abreast of this subject. Those who wish to be fully in the picture should subscribe to Logistics Europe’s monthly RFID Executive Briefing newsletter. Visit for more information.

Nick Allen, Editor

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