RFID Technologies Strive to Keep Customers On Board

Vendors announce generation two initiatives and quick start programs to keep hesitant users working with RFID.

DALLAS—The fourth annual RFID World event here this year holds few surprises in terms of customer adoption rates—it turns out most RFID implementations are still the result of mandates.

That said, there is no lack of new technology to bring existing and potential customers along the RFID path. EPCglobals generation two standard, more colloquially known as Gen 2, has taken a front seat for many vendors, as has providing quick start programs for companies looking to take the low cost approach to testing out new RFID capabilities.

Avery Dennison Retail Information Services, for example, announced Feb. 28 its Gen 2 RFID Starter Kit that includes 1,000 free RFID carton labels, Avery Dennisons AP 5.4 RFID printer, Windows-compliant Label Management System software and a starter roll of RFID carton or pallet labels.

To encourage retail, consumer package goods and industrial companies—mainly those under the mandate gun from Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense—to adopt Gen 2, Intermec (which develops tags and readers) on Feb. 27 instituted an RFID buyback program that offers a rebate for companies that trade in their Gen 1 equipment for Intermecs Gen 2 hardware.

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"Were starting to see a situation where customers are moving from test to pilot and cutting purchase orders [for implementations]. Thats great news, meaning [companies] are able to demonstrate ROI through pilot," said David Scott, vice president of global strategy at Intermec.

"Pilots have all been Gen 1 … Users need to remove existing hardware and swap it out for new hardware. Thats why the buyback is so compelling."

Intermec is also offering another deal to spur adoption: For those companies implanting Gen 2, with every 50,000 tags purchased, Intermec will throw in a free RFID printer or reader.

"We think the average company is going to purchase one to two million tags," said Scott. "Now its more in the 50,000 to 100,000 [purchase] range."

Another company, UPM Raflatac, announced new UHF (ultra high frequency) Gen 2 tags and inlays named MemoryStick, Frog and Mini—likely because theyre available as dry inlay, wet inlay and tag applications.

To help companies get on track quickly—and relatively cheaply—Savi Technology announced the general availability of its Savi SmartStart Solution aimed at businesses that want to implement RFID.

The package, which tracks assets and items at local sites, includes network management software for device configuration, management and monitoring. It also provides asset and inventory reports on network inventory, inventory by asset, asset movement, activity audit, inventory reconciliation and user activity.

The package is designed as a "jump-start" platform for first RFID implementation, officials said.

A couple of smaller companies are taking the quick start approach as well. Miles Technology and the RFID Benchmark LAB announced CP Express, labeling software geared toward helping users meet retail and DoD mandates.

It includes RFID label templates, automatic EPC and DoD number generation and tracking, tag verification and export capabilities to ERP (enterprise resource planning) and warehouse management systems.

On the flip side, Omron RFID introduced its One Day Compliance Package that supports both Gen 1 and Gen 2 that, like Intermec, provides free FRID labels—10,000 in this case.

Finally, Alien Technology along with Hewlett-Packard, announced a partnership whereby each company will sell the others products.

Under the terms of the deal, Aliens Gen2 ALR-9800 Enterprise Reader and tag products will be implemented by HP Services.

HP brings its OpenView management software, its ProLiant and Integrity Superdome servers, and StorageWorks printing devices to the table.

Despite all the commotion around Gen 2, some users who have switched from Gen 1 are not impressed with the technology.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read why the RFID payoff has not arrived yet.

"Its mandated by Wal-Mart but not because of any advantage," said Jim McMasters, senior vice president of IT at Tandy Brands Accessories Inc. "Its not worth the fanfare. Its more about continued good relations with our customer [Wal-Mart]."

Likewise, DHLs Bob Berg, senior business systems manager and RFID Manager for DHL Americas, believes the best part of Gen 2 is its standardization capabilities.

"All the mandaters are going to Gen 2 and thats good," said Berg.

"The read rates are good and the equipment works fairly well, but its not exactly plug and play. The real value is standardization. We have to have a standard. Wal-Mart, the DoD, they want UHF/Gen 2. Thats fine with us."

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