Metro's RFID tests mark "milestone" for Europe, company says

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rfid

A European test of radio frequency identification (RFID) at a Metro
distribution centre inGermany has achieved read rates of close to
99 per cent, pointing the way ahead to a furtherexpansion of the
technology throughout the supply chain.

RFID technology is helping to transform logistics by providing a means of tracking and tracingindividual products throughout the supply chain. However the high cost of tags, error read rates andprivacy concerns have held back the development of the technology. However regulations ontraceability and mandates from such giant retailers as Wal-Mart and Metro are slowing forcingprocessors to make investments in the technology.

Checkpoint Systems, an RFID manufacturer, said the trials were supervised by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)and were conducted at Metro Group's distribution centres near Hamm, Germany. The trials weredesigned to improve RFID tag read performance in high-density reader situations.

The tests achieved a 98.5 per cent read rate simultaneously from multiple pallets as they were wheeled throughdock doors. The trials at Metro provide hope that RFID suppliers are having success in achievingnear perfect read rates. The tests were also meant to validate the use of RFID on portal dock doorsin preparation for Metro's UHF rollout expansion plans, scheduled to being sometime this year.

"The results represent a significant milestone in European RFID operational deployment,"​ said Dr. Gerd Wolfram,Metro's managing director of information technology.

The test used equipment from numerous RFID suppliers in Europe and North America. Checkpoint served as a hardware integrator for the trials.The company helped with the design work for the hardware and procurement. It also helped configure andinstall the 36 RFID-enabled dock door portals. These were used to validate successful simultaneous operation of multiple dock doors using afour-channel synchronised approach.

Pallets containing 62 individually tagged cases were simultaneously transported at warehouse speeds through 36 adjacent loading dock doors. Some 4.5 million individual reads were recorded over the course of the trials.The pallets mostly contained products that have presented a barrier to RFID. These are cans, liquids and metal lineditems.

As a result of the successful trial, Checkpoint and Metro are now working on the next stage planning for Metro'splanned RFID roll-out in 2007.

Metro had sales of 55.7bn euros in 2005.

RFID uses a wireless system that helps enterprises track products, parts, expensive items andtemperature-and time-sensitive goods. Transponders, or RFID tags, are attached to objects. The tagwill identify itself when it detects a signal from a reader that emits a radio frequencytransmission.

Each RFID tag carries information on it such as a serial number, model number, colour, place ofassembly or other types of data. When these tags pass through a field generated by a compatiblereader, they transmit this information back to the reader, thereby identifying the object.

According to Venture Development Corporation the worldwide market for RFID systems was $2.3bn in 2006, with hardware accounting for nearly 59 per cent of sales.

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