IBM Global Services is HPs main competitor in RFID, according to Lanza. The deals with BearingPoint and OAT each represent an extension of an existing relationship with HP. "OATs software takes data from RFID readers and brings it upward in a manner that lets you deal with it in a structured way," Lanza said."[BearingPoint] has great expertise in how to use RFID in the retail supply chain for dealing with inventory reduction and out of stock situations."For OAT, the partnership with HP is a key ingredient in an alliance strategy that also includes large retailers, according to Marc Osofsky, OATSystems vice president for marketing and product management. HP has already been using OATs RFID framework software internally, Osofsky told eWEEK.com. "HP has firsthand pain and lessons learned from Wal-Mart," observed Brian Higgins, BearingPoints director of global RFID solutions, in another interview. HP became involved as an early Wal-Mart RFID tester through its role as a huge supplier of PCs and consumer electronics to Wal-Mart. Higgins said that BearingPoints RFID consulting and integration practice consists of two divisions. One of them focuses on "custom" RFID work. The other is creating RFID solutions for compliance with mandates from Wal-Mart, the U.S. Department of Defense and other big users. For this division, leveraging the potential for cost efficiencies is an important goal. "In the CPG industry, RFID is an entirely different ballgame from barcode track and trace," Higgins pointed out. BearingPoint is now working on issues ranging from quicker capture of POS (point-of-sale) data to "item-level serialization," an application aimed at breaking down products from the same SKU into more granular categories, for more effective sales forecasting and demand planning. Check out eWEEK.coms Supply Chain Management & Logistics Center for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.