IT services company LogicaCMG opened an innovation warehouse in Sydney for customers to realise the benefits of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to their businesses.
Much of the current growth in RFID has been in the US -- where supermarket giant Walmart dictates its own RFID mandate to suppliers -- but it is the more timid Asia-Pacific market where the biggest take up is expected in the coming years.
LogicaCMG managing director for industry, distribution and transport, Craig Lennard, said this was why it had chosen Sydney as the base for its second warehouse project. The innovation warehouse, based in Lane Cove, allows businesses to "play with" RFID in working, standards-based environment.
"Commentators believe Asia-Pacific is where we are gong to see the biggest growth in coming years ... this is the area that is steaming ahead with manufacturing," Lennard said.
At present the US makes up 70 percent of purchases of the technology, which had a global market equalling US$2.77 billion last year. Europe makes up 20 percent and Asia-Pacific makes up even less of this remaining amount, according to Lennard.
"A lot of our clients are still working on pilot projects at the moment ... the business community here is a little conservative [when it comes to RFID]," Lennard said.
"That is why we want to engage people and demonstrate to them the business benefits of RFID and work with them in an environment that can mimic their own."
The RFID Innovation Warehouse -- which resembles a similar LogicaCMG warehouse in the Netherlands -- allows businesses to set up real warehouse scenarios to help with business case development and the design of feasibility studies as well as educational workshops. RFID can be placed on forklifts, pallets, cages, doors racks for example, so that customers can replicate the receipt of products, as well as consignment label production and end-to-end location tracking.
Designed with the help of LogicaCMG partners Sybase, Intermec and Alien, the warehouse has also had input from GS1, the not-for-profit supply chain standards body that covers the Electronic Product Code (EPCglobal) standards that support RFID technology.
Joseli Munive, manager of alliances and partners at GS1, said that as more and more companies adopt RFID standards, the cost of the technology overall is likely to drop. The standards cover areas such as read-and-write distance, storage capacity and interoperability between RFID tags and readers.
RFID is most commonly used to date, in the Australian market, with returnable transport and high-volume goods, where tracking and tracing makes up a large part of the supply chain.
Lennard said that some capabilities are still holding the technology back -- such as read and write rates through materials such as water and metal -- but in many cases this does not affect how the RFID can be used within a company's supply chain.
"You cannot sell the solution as a piece of technology -- you really have to show the practicalities of the RFID," Lennard says. "Only then will you be able to get past the technology and work on its applications."
RFID is increasingly being used with a level of intelligence, for example. Lennard said it was becoming increasingly common for RFID to be used to measure the temperature on parcels during transport, or even on transport items themselves, where they can be used to keep dibs on the condition of crucial mechanical parts while in transit.