Network Middle East electronic edition 30th May, 2005

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By  Simon Duddy Published  May 29, 2005

RFID revs up|~||~||~|The red light could be about to turn green for RFID, as high profile enterprises champion its use and the region looks forward to its first large scale implementation. RFID (radio frequency identification) has stalled since it emerged in a blaze of hype a few years ago, with many analysts saying the technology was too immature to attract significant investment, but there are signs that RFID deployments could be progressing faster than expected. According to Wal-Mart and the other leading retailers that have been among the early adopters, the technology is starting to show tangible benefits. Wal-Mart says the product identification and tracking technology is helping to keep its shelves stocked and is lowering the number of products that get lost as they travel through supply chains. In fact, the CIO of Wal-Mart, Linda Dillman recently encouraged other retailers not to wait but push ahead with RFID tests and projects. Another big hitter to commit to RFID is courier firm DHL. The company is looking to implement a RFID system worldwide to help reduce inventory costs and give it greater visibility across its network. DHL is on the verge of signing a deal with newly formed company Tagstone to implement the solution across its regional operations in the Middle East. DHL is looking to a number of key benefits such as cost reductions across its supply chain and lower inventory costs, plus greater automation of its systems. It will also give the company much better visibility of where items are, which means it can decrease the time it takes to pick up parcels and deliver them. That in turn gives the company more leeway in the time it allocates for final pick-up. Although each company has individual requirements, all enterprises that deal with the flow of goods will see great benefits from a well-implemented solution. In the retail environment, companies can more easily spot which products are out of stock and distribution companies can spot gaps in the supply chain, as the tags can log what date and time cargo reaches each waypoint in a journey. Another encouraging sign for RFID is the number of companies developing applications that allow the enterprise to make use of the information generated by RFID. One example is OatSystems, which has developed software that is designed to help companies make business sense of supply-chain data collected by RFID devices. It is essential that database software and other applications are able to recognise and use RFID data if implementations are to deliver on their promise. Despite this progress, the RFID world is still taking its baby steps. There is not doubt that the technology will blow barcodes away for good in many companies, but it will undoubtedly cause problems too. As well as the issue of phasing out of legacy equipment and the pitfalls inherent in any wide-ranging implementation, the storage issue will be critical. Its all very well knowing the status of a parcel as it travels around the world, but if the system is to garner benefits a company must be able to store and collate this information - for every parcel, lorry, or canned good - that passes through its system. IT managers will face a major headache as already ballooning storage requirements hit the roof once RFID data needs to be archived and managed.||**||

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