Promoting RFID Adoption
The goal of RFID centers like the one opened by HP is to educate companies interested in the technologyand at the end of the day to spur adoption of RFID. In HPs Milan center, BEA Systems, Microsoft and SAP are among the companies that provide software for customers to demo in relation to an RFID implementation. HP itself provides a number of services, including an integration center where partners can test and integrate HP technologies, a demo lab for HP customers and partners to collaborate on new services and learn about implementations in specific industries, and a training center where HP employees, customers and partners can exchange technical know-how.But HP is not alone in establishing RFID test centersother vendors like Sun and IBM have done so as welland the competition for actual customers is fierce. "We had several descriptions and several offers to participate in a pilot. HP had amongst them all a good offer, but it was not the only one," said Henry Lok, manager of engineering and development at Euro Pool System. "HP is offering a rather independent system with good facilities in Milan, where there is a lot of experience with factories working with RFID." While Euro Pool paid for its pilot project at the Milan test center, there were "some interesting terms with prerelease software" for incentive, said HPs Lanza. While Lok has not been able to find an actual business case for RFID, he believes the technologys benefits in the future outweigh any current challenges. "We believe that in total that business might be different in 10 years time[it will be] better," said Lok. "Right now our business is based on statistical analysis of total business. In 10 years time you better know who is creating most of the cost [of doing business], and they will be charged more than others that are costing us less." Lok is working with HP to pilot both 2-D bar code and RFID embedded in the companys crates, with the goal of getting a better handle on crate reconciliationwhere crates are in the process of being utilized and returned to Euro Pool System, or which customer has what crates. Loks conclusion: In all applications, something is possible. With bar code he is able to read a lot of crates at once, but the crates cannot be moving and they have to be in a readers line of sight. RFID, on the other hand, enables him to read tags in motion without a line of sight. The advantages of RFID, at this point, outweigh the disadvantages like unpredictable read rates and the cost of implementation for Euro Pool. "We do not have a positive business case at this moment," said Lok. "We are testing. We dont earn money [using RFID], and in this moment a business case might still be difficult compared to [bar code]. But the big difference is higher accuracy when you get to situations that are crucialthat are costing retailers quite a lot of money. There will be fewer problems with items out of date. But therefore is the need to invest quite heavily in equipment." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
To date, the center has completed between 200 and 300 customer presentations about the center and has nailed down about 35 projects across Europe, according to Frank Lanza, worldwide RFID director at HP.