The time for RFID in the Middle East is now

After several years in development, radio tagging is now ready to be really pushed, says IBM, so the company is busy talking to potential users about what RFID offers

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By  Matthew Wade Published  September 27, 2005

RFID solutions are ready for the market and, combined with the middleware and comprehensive industry applications now available, should find wide-spread support amongst organisations in the Middle East, according to IBM. This prediction is why the firm has decided that this year at Gitex, the time really is right to push its RFID solutions by first educating the market. Speaking exclusively to the Gitex Times, Mourad Zohny, BPO manager for IBM's Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan division, explains: “Our RFID solutions have been developed over the past few years, but we didn't really put enough emphasis on these before. So this year is our opportunity to really bring RFID to this region.” RFID, which is short for Radio Frequency Identification, refers to the radio tagging of objects. This method of collecting data about any product can be used to monitor goods in transit, helping firms track freight moving between suppliers and countries, or in the case of retail, products being swiped off shelves by avid shoppers. “At IBM we have developed the middleware, such as database engines, websphere and so on, but the industry-specific business applications themselves come about through our teaming up with third party developers, so-called ISVs - independent software vendors,” says Zohny. “Some of the applications are available now, in retail for example, and in some cases we're working with providers to tailor their current programs to make use of RFID, in effect just adding another facet or feature to them.” In the Middle East, the two key industries that IBM is keen to target with RFID are shipping and the retail market. In the UAE for example, Jebel Ali is traditionally a major shipping and transport hub, while in the retail sector the Middle East market is booming as an explosion in the number of hypermarkets here takes place. “If you think about shipping as an example, all those pallets or boxes can be tracked and monitored quickly and effectively via RFID,” says Zohny. In order to push RFID, IBM is holding court this week with current and potential customers to demonstrate its solutions and educate players in each vertical market segment about how their organisations can become more efficient. “Of course the key to such relationships and deals is taking the time to talk to a company and really discuss what they're looking for, what their needs from a technology are,” says Zohny, “which is how the RFID product side of our business sits perfectly with the consulting services we offer.” Following the sale of IBM's PC division to Lenovo, the firm is focusing more now on “the value space”, as Khaled Hassan, the firm's Middle East marketing and communications manager puts it. “The key to our offer is whole end-to-end systems,” Hassan says. “And of course meeting business challenges with appropriate solutions.” “We want customers to be able to use our technologies,” adds Zohny, “as a means of reducing their costs, rather than them just having the quickest PC, or lots of amazing screen displays.”

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