The S&A division will also exploit R&D by IBM into pervasive and autonomic computing, according to the IBM vice president. In the organizational sense, the division is part of IBMs Pervasive Computing business. "But this isnt just about software or hardware. Its about our consulting services, too," he said.In its current phase, the Metro deployment is being carried out by 20 CPG (consumer packaged goods) makers at 250 retail stores, as well as in back-end distribution. Ultimately, all of Metros 2,400 locations are expected to be involved. "IBM has a huge business in retail. Its only natural for them to want to extend RFID backward from the POS [point of sale] to the supply chain," said Christine Overby, an analyst at Forrester Research. At the same time, IBM Business Consulting Services has been working with the Defense Department under a three-year contract to help manage and support policy around the use of RFID by 43,000 defense suppliers. Meanwhile, IBM is also working with the International Post Office to build an RFID-enabled quality management system. The system is aimed at speeding global mail delivery, as well as helping postal operators in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific settle their accounts more quickly. More than half a million test letters will be sent this year, and IBM anticipates that the system will be fully operational by next year, according to Mayberry. The test letters carry RFID transponders that are automatically read as they pass through reading stations in the international post office system, letting postal personnel track how long it takes the pieces of mail to travel from one country to another. Beyond IBMs current RFID implementations, how might sensor technologies be used in the future? Mayberry shared a few examples. In the manufacturing market, he said, sensors will be embedded into programmable logic controllers, for monitoring manufacturing execution "from the plant floor to the top floor." In the transportation industry, on the other hand, applications might range from luggage tracking to preventive equipment maintenance. "Mechanics will be able to tell more easily which $5 bolt to change in a $5 million aircraft," Mayberry said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.
Indeed, the IBM Global Services consulting arm is heading up systems integration work in the current RFID implementation at Metro, the fifth-largest manufacturer worldwide, he said.