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Asda: 'We will use RFID'

Parent company Wal-Mart has outlined ASDA's next strategic RFID move

Supermarket giant Asda is to dip its toe into RFID waters, it was confirmed today.

Simon Langford, manager of RFID strategy at Asda's US parent Wal-Mart, revealed today that the UK firm is readying an RFID rollout - despite its previous rejection of the chips.

Speaking at the GS1 UK EPCglobal conference in London today, Langford said Asda is in the early stages of an implementation. "We see Europe, Canada and Brazil as next place we will take the technology to - we're testing with Gen2 tags and we're now at an early stage."

Wal-Mart's RFID architect said the release of second generation RFID standards had been the impetus behind the decision for Asda to adopt RFID. "We see Gen2 as an enabler," he explained.

Langford, however, gave no indication as to when the UK could expect to see an Asda rollout. "We're in the early planning stages for UK and Asda but there's no date to share yet," he said.

Wal-Mart, which famously provoked ire among 100 of its top suppliers by mandating the inclusion of the technology in their supply chains, may not see a similar reaction to the chips in the UK. One Asda supplier said he thought the change to the track and trace chips was "a good thing" as it would allow suppliers "to leverage the benefits of the technology".

With Wal-Mart's mandate and RFID implementation already old news, the retail behemoth is already eyeing up its next move with the controversial technology.

Wal-Mart is already looking at new form factors for its RFID readers, including hands-free and forklift truck readers. It's also in the process of tripling the number of sites which receive the RFID tracked goods - currently 104 Wal-Mart stores and three SAM's clubs - which the retailer predicts will be implemented by October of this year.

The number of Wal-Mart suppliers that will be slapping the chips on their goods is also on the rise. Langford said the retail chain is also talking to the next 200 suppliers to join the RFID fold. The next batch of chip-toting firms will be live with the technology by January 2006.