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DoD, Wal-Mart push RFID

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently became the latest convert to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The government arm said it will require suppliers to put passive RFID tags on equipment at the pallet, case and part level by January 2005. The DoD's move follows moves by giant Wal-Mart Corp., which is pushing its suppliers to place RFID tags on pallets by 2005.

RFID tags are small, integrated circuits that can hold identification data. The tags can transmit such information to electronic readers and can then be shuttled to servers for roll-up for corporate analysis, planning and execution. Proponents hope the RFID tag will surpass the bar-code ID system now widely employed in retail and other settings. Some viewers see RFID as a driver of enterprise wireless system deployment.

ERP powerhouse SAP is a prominent vendor pursuing RFID. Together with Metro Group and Intel, SAP is a co-founder of the Future Store Initiative, which has opened its first super-supermarket in Rheinberg near Duisburg, Germany. SAP provides all RFID software components connecting low-level RFID reader interfaces and pertinent applications. SAP also provides RFID-based goods flow-tracking and RFID-based information systems.

The would-be ''bar-code killer'' will be widely piloted next year. A survey held at the recent Electronic Product Code Symposium in Chicago found that while 67% of survey participants are not currently using RFID in their supply chain, 100% of them indicated that they plan to utilize or pilot the technology within the next two years. Nearly half plan to do so within the next year.

Is there a dark side to RFID? Consumer privacy advocates have warned of the potential for misuse of RFID. Fashion purveyor Benetton halted an RFID trial earlier this year in response to protests.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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