Are You Ready for RFID? - Page 3

By Colin C. Haley | Posted Nov 24, 2003
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IT Heavy Hitters

Wal-Mart's edict insures that at least 100 large companies, mostly in consumer package goods, will be buying and implementing systems. Out of the hypothetical realm, large technology companies are examining ways to be part of these lucrative projects.

IBM , through its consulting arm, has established an RFID service to assess the needs of its customers, such as Kimberly Clark, and help them choose vendors and implement an RFID system.

"Our customers that supply Wal-Mart are asking us what to use, how to use it," says Jan Walbridge, an IBM spokeswoman.

IBM is in a good position on RFID consulting because of its acquisition of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Walbridge adds. Several team members there had experience in the field.

Besides Big Blue, Sun Microsystems will open a testing center in Dallas next month. Because Sun's facility will be built on the same technology as Wal-Mart's, suppliers can test their RFID systems to be sure they meet Wal-Mart's RFID specifications. The company says customers will also be able to test RFID technology in conjunction with Sun's Java Enterprise Software.

Acsis, a supply chain and business process automation firm for companies using SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, has expanded its RFID lab to help Wal-Mart suppliers guarantee compliance as well.

And chipmaker Intel is collaborating with ThingMagic, a privately held research and development company, to produce RFID readers.

In addition to tags and readers, implementation, and testing, large-scale adoption of RFID could generate huge volumes of new data that must be captured, stored, and analyzed, a potential bonanza for hardware, software, and storage vendors.

Remaining Challenges

Still, RFID is not without its problems — problems that must be overcome if the technology is going to spread to companies outside of Wal-Mart's considerable orbit.

ThingMagic's Bernd Schoner reports range and interference as two remaining two issues. Currently, the tags can't be more than six or eight feet away from the readers to connect. Also, metal and packaging can block or corrupt the signal, according to Schoner.

Like any emerging technology, standards need to be established so that regardless of the vendor, any company's tags can be read by any customer's reader. International spectrum issues will also need to be addressed in order to avoid compatibility problems for companies shipping overseas.

"This is happening; it's well on its way," says Gillette's Dubash. "For people who are not there already, they will be scrambling big-time. That means there are huge opportunities for people to start companies that solve some of these problems."

Feature courtesy of internetnews.com.

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