IBMs RFID Middleware
Metro sees advantages in RFID in terms of costs, planning and efficiency, she said. "The use of this innovative technology leads to extensive process optimization, to higher effectiveness and thus to lower costs." "For one thing, it allows for better surveillance of the process chain. With RFID technology, transport and location of goods can be exactly traced from the manufacturer down to the store shelves. For another, the individual sections of the process chain can be better coordinated. Production and inventory can be planned more accurately and are easier to control." The cost savings are particularly clear in fresh food management, she said, pointing to a study conducted by IBM Business Consulting Services and the Auto-ID Center of Cambridge, Mass.IBMs RFID middleware is being put to work for exchanging data between RFID readers and Metros merchandise management system, as well as for administering the RFID infrastructure. Will users get buried under RFID data? Click here to find out. Meanwhile, at its "Future Store" in Rheinberg, Germany, Metro is trying out RFID-enabled retail goodies such as the Personal Shopping Assistant, a handheld computer with a touch screen that is attached to a shopping cart. Customers can use the PDA to scan and price individual items, gain additional product information and pinpoint the locations of items in the store. Also being trialed there are Smart Shelves, equipped with RFID reading devices meant to detect if an item is out of stock, or if a wrong item was placed on the shelf, Sulzmann said. At the German Retail Convention last month, Metro demoed a few additional retail innovations from its Future Store Initiative. With the De-Activator, for instance, shoppers have the option of de-activating the RFID tags on the goods theyve purchased, after first going through a self-checkout system known as Future Check-Out. Major members of Metros Future Store Initiative include Intel, SAP and Microsoft, for example, plus IBM. In 2006, Metros commercial RFID rollout is widely expected to grow to about 300 suppliers, along with additional Metro warehouses and stores in Germany. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.
Metro has hired IBM, an IT product and services partner for the past 30 years, to provide middleware as well as installation services for the RFID rollout. "We wanted a partner with experience in [both] RFID and retail," she said.