HP Deals to Aid RFID Push Into Retail, Manufacturing

HP is working with specialists BearingPoint and OATSystems on RFID for Wal-Mart compliance and other retail implementations. Meanwhile, the major IBM competitor is building "domain knowledge" about RFID in manufacturing.

Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the "initial eight" product distributors in the Wal-Mart RFID trials, will unveil on Monday pacts with systems integrator BearingPoint Inc. and RFID software specialist OATSystems Inc.

The moves signal big changes in HPs strategy as an RFID vendor, according to Frank Lanza, worldwide director of RFID for HP Services. Under the two deals, to be talked up further at this weeks EPCglobal show, HP will work with both BearingPoint and OATSystems to bring RFID solutions to market in the retail supply chain space, Lanza said in an interview with eWEEK.com.

"Weve concluded that we dont want to become famous for everything in RFID," Lanza added.

HPs 65,000-person services business has been looking at which vertical areas to target in RFID, he said. Two years ago, HP began to build up an RFID practice among its hundreds of customers in the manufacturing arena. The early users include toy maker Hasbro Inc. and Conros Inc., producer of Citronella candles.

"[But] weve decided not to build significant domain expertise in the retail supply chain," Lanza said. Instead of going it alone in this market segment, HP will work with BearingPoint and OAT.

Meanwhile, outside these partnerships, HP will focus on furthering its existing RFID domain expertise in manufacturing, as well as in related areas such as the automotive and oil and gas exploration markets, he said.

When it comes to the BearingPoint and OAT deals, HP will bring its "global reach" and underlying technology and services infrastructure to the partnership equation, along with a large installed base of retail customers for various products and services.

"As weve talked with retail customers, theyve asked us for a go-to-market strategy that will combine robust [RFID] software with end-to-end services," Lanza said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about the top current concerns of RFID customers.

In terms of infrastructure, HPs contributions will range from HP OpenView management software to Microsoft Windows- and Unix-based server hardware, HP StorageWorks technology, and services such as Life Cycle Management, HP Managed Services and RFID Integration Services.

RFID challenges, benefits and applications can vary tremendously among various vertical markets, analysts agree.

In the auto industry, for example, users will be implementing RFID throughout the entire product lifecycle, from manufacturing, through the sales showroom and ultimately through disposal of auto parts when its time for the car to leave the road, said Bruce Hudson, an analyst at the Meta Group.

Erik Michaelsen, an analyst at ABI Research, characterized the auto industrys use of RFID as a "closed loop," meaning that a single company is in control all along the way. In contrast, use of RFID among retailers and their product distributors is an "open loop" situation, he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about emerging vertical market strategies in RFID.

OATSystems and BearingPoint arent limiting themselves to the retail RFID market, either. A solution now being co-developed by HP and OAT—RFID/IS (Industrial Strength) —is geared to the retail CPG (consumer packaged goods) markets, as well as to consumer electronics, high tech, pharmaceutical and automotive customers.

Next Page: HPs main RFID competitor.