PREDICTED by analysts to be the next big thing, radio frequency identification (RFID) will soon replace barcodes and spawn nume-rous software applications and integration services.
HP business manager for wireless and mobility Paull Wilson says RFID techno-logy is going to be huge and plans are afoot to bring a senior HP executive to New Zealand in March to speak with resellers about opportunities.
“It’s become pervasive and will be a growth area for resellers, especially in support and services. At the moment it’s where wireless was two or three years ago,” he says.
Wilson says HP is already using RFID on its warehouse products in the US and is advi-sing on implementation of the technology to clients such as Nestle, Gillette and Proctor and Gamble.
“In New Zealand there is interest from the manufacturing and retail sector. Fonterra is very interested and companies like The Warehouse and Progressive are looking into it.”
He believes the technology will be at item level by 2007 and says the pharmaceutical industry has the potential to bring that forward by using RFID to eliminate counterfeiting.
“Privacy is a grey area in RFID. To me it’s all about what you do with the information — imagine how quickly product recalls could be carried out as opposed to taking an ad out in the paper,” says Wilson.
Unisys Northern region manager Glen Bittle says that while RFID technology is new for commercial use and has only become active in the last two years, it’s been used by the US Department of Defense since 1996 to measure vehicle movements.
“As a technology it’s got potential and New Zealand is pretty good at picking up things. It’s not foolproof yet and there are still some things that have to be ironed out,” he says.
Bittle says New Zealand can benefit from the technology, especially exporters.
“I imagine MAF and port authorities are investigating its use. New Zealand is perceived globally as a safe place — clean and green. If something major happens in the commercial world then New Zealand is going to look good.”
Major players such as IBM have already entered the market and mobile phone maker Nokia has released its first RFID phone.
Microsoft has established an RFID Council to look at the growing number of partners building RFID solutions on the Microsoft platform, and how to take advantage of the technology to make it easier for retai-lers and manufacturers to track and trace merchandise.
IDC senior VP research Frank Gens says there is plenty of forward momentum with sensors used in conjunction with RFID, leading to the emergence of process intelligence.
Gens says the demand for real-time business intelligence will be driven by changes in manufacturing, supply chain and demand flows due to RFID.
He says that while the military and some companies, including retailers WalMart and Tescos, are already using sensors and RFID in the supply chain, many other companies are clueless.
US-based technology market research company In-Stat predicts the RFID market will be worth $2.8 billion by 2009.
Benefits of RFID, according to Deloitte, include enhanced safety and quality control, increased fraud protection and a reduction of operating costs.
The European Central Bank intends to have RFIDs implanted in all bank notes this year and has been in talks with Hitachi for use of its Myu chip.
Japanese children attending Wakayama School in Osaka have their clothing chipped and are read by an RFID reader at the school gates.
Two US men decided to microwave US$1,000 in a stack of twenties. The right eye of Andrew Jackson was burnt through on every note.
Gillette has placed an order for 500 million RFID tags for use in select products in the US.
US-based Delta Air has tested over 40,000 tags on luggage and British Airways has conducted a similar test.
Germany RFID tag manufacturer KSW-Microtec has unveiled two washable tags that can be sewn into clothing and will target US uniform and apparel markets.