Bedding, wine get a taste of RFID

Singapore's Republic Polytechnic partners a bedding retail chain and a logistics player to implement the radio frequency technology to track and monitor products.

SINGAPORE--RFID (radio frequency identification) technology may make its way to bedding and wines in the next couple of years, if projects spearheaded by a local education institution take off.

Republic Polytechnic (RP) on Wednesday inked an agreement to develop and test a RFID-enabled supply chain management system for bed linen and home accessories company Aussino. A third partner, NEC Solutions Asia-Pacific, will provide its expertise in Electronic Product Code (EPC) which is a numbering scheme used in RFID tagging.

Fong Yew Chan, director of RP's School of Engineering, told ZDNet Asia that RFID was a suitable option to enhance Aussino's supply chain management as the company's warehouse operations were "highly manual". Implementing RFID would not only provide automation, but could also improve efficiency and minimize the loss of goods, he said.

Terence Foo, head of inventory at Aussino, noted that the team involved in this project is currently studying the amount of time savings as well as the accuracy of stored information on the RFID tags. Goods will be tracked from Aussino's manufacturing base in Shanghai to the distribution point or warehouse in Singapore, and subsequently to its 10 retail stores in the island-state.

In future, the RFID tagging could also be deployed as a security feature, and the scope of use could be extended to its operations in other regions, such as Europe, he said.

According to Foo, testing could be completed by end-2007. RP's Fong added that it would be "logical" to expect Aussino to utilize and, if necessary, further enhance the product after testing is complete.

According to Fong, the polytechnic will also be involved in an upcoming trial with SembCorp Logistics, to track and monitor the temperature of premium wine--from the time it is bottled until a customer purchases that bottle. This could help improve customer satisfaction as it provides quality assurance for each bottle of wine they buy, he explained.

However, Fong noted that there were technological challenges to overcome, such as the lifespan of battery used in each RFID tag. A typical battery would last about two years, but the entire process of monitoring the wine bottles "takes years", he said.