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RFID being tested with manufacturers

By Ahmed ElAmin , 03-Aug-2007

An EU-funded project to develop radio frequency identification (RFID) will launch pilot studies with manufacturers this year.

RFID has long been touted as the future of logistics for all companies by allowing retailers and suppliers to track goods throughout the supply chain. However high prices for tags and systems has held enthusiasm at bay. Privacy concerns have also limited its use at the consumer level. Mandates from such giant retailers as Wal-Mart and Metro are slowly forcing processors to make investments in the system. The EU is providing €7.5m toward the three-year project to develop and extend the use of RFID technology in a range of industries, including the food and drink sector. The Building Radio Frequency IDentification solutions for the Global Environment (Bridge) project will develop research, training and demonstration models in the effective use of RFID based on EPCglobal standards. In food manufacturing processes, the project hopes to demonstrate how to reduce waste and stock holding. The project will improve the visibility and traceability of both products and equipment, thereby improving food safety. Now in its second year, the project is moving on to more concrete analysis said Henri Barthel, coordinator for Bridge. "The testing and piloting phase are critically important to support the massive deployment of the technology that will happen over the next few years," he said. "Our analysis from the first year of the project provides us with a solid basis to support our next steps." Bridge consortium members include five research laboratories, 12 RFID suppliers and seven businesses. They are Carrefour, Nestlé UK, Benedicta, Kaufhof, Sony, El Corte Inglés and Gardeur. The project has the objective to research, develop and implement tools to enable the deployment of RFID and EPCglobal applications in Europe. During the first year, the businesses involved conducted problem analysis and a requirements analysis in seven key areas. These are anti-counterfeiting, pharmaceuticals traceability, textile industry, food manufacturing, re-usable assets, products in service and item-level tagging in retail for non-food products. Participants in the programme include universities in Europe and China, three of the Auto-ID Labs, providers, both large and small, together with large scale retailers and manufacturers. "Since its inception, RFID has been hailed as the panacea for a more sophisticated and efficient global supply chain, but there are many questions to answer before this is realised," Barthel has previously stated in describing the project. RFID uses a wireless system that helps enterprises track products, parts, expensive items and temperature-and time-sensitive goods. Transponders, or RFID tags, are attached to objects. The tag will identify itself when it detects a signal from a reader that emits a radio frequency transmission. Each RFID tag carries information on it such as a serial number, model number, colour, place of assembly or other types of data. When these tags pass through a field generated by a compatible reader, they transmit this information back to the reader, thereby identifying the object. RFID is being seen as a step up on bar codes by giving those in the supply chain the ability to track individual products and obtain more data. EPCglobal is a fledgling standards setting agency developing RFID technology that will be compatible around the world. The aim is to construct a global supply chain information network that combines RFID technology, existing communications network infrastructure and EPC, a number for uniquely identifying an item. Generation 2 refers to an updated version of the standard, which makes tracking and tracing systems compatible throughout the world. The BRIDGE site is: www.bridge-project.eu.

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