Germany's Metro Group, IBM, Intel and VeriSign all getting involved...Retailers are pressing on with plans to use the controversial RFID 'barcode replacement' tracking chips through the supply chain despite consumer privacy concerns about the technology.
UK supermarket chain Tesco, one of the first major retailers in Europe to trial RFID, has joined with Intel, Carrefour and Metro Group to form a European working group to accelerate the adoption of the technology.
The Electronic Product Code (EPC) Retail Users Group of Europe will work with other RFID standards bodies and provide a forum for European retailers to identify and share best practice, the companies said.
Colin Cobain, IT director at Tesco, said in a statement: "We recognise the importance of implementing an efficient supply chain and the benefits EPC and RFID could bring. We are currently trialling radio barcodes within our distribution network and have already seen some benefits. We hope to be able to roll this out soon."
In a separate announcement, German retail group Metro Store is working with IBM and SAP to deploy the radio frequency identity tags throughout its entire supply chain. The project will begin in November this year with 100 suppliers tagging all of their pallets and transport crates for delivery to 10 of the company's central warehouses and 250 stores.
"We see RFID as a crucial technology for the future of retailing," said Dr Gerd Wolfram, project manager of the Metro Group Future Store initiative.
Metro Group will work with IBM on an RFID test laboratory that will allow suppliers to learn about and test the technology ahead of the live launch.
On the back of work with Metro Group and other companies, including Procter & Gamble, SAP has launched an RFID-enabled supply chain management module that will enable firms to manage data reads from and writes to RFID tags. The full product is expected to be available to customers by the middle of 2004.
In a further development, IT vendor and retail body Electronic Product Code (EPC) Global, which aims to develop standards and a global directory for tracking all RFID-enabled products, has this week awarded Verisign the contract to manage the root directory for looking up RFID numbers on the internet.