/>
X

Photos: Inside Big Blue's new RFID centre

Dublin campus takes a craic at track and trace...
bylinepic.jpg
By Jo Best on
40148578-1-airshot.jpg
1 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

Dublin campus takes a craic at track and trace...

IBM recently unveiled an RFID Centre of Excellence at its Dublin technology campus. The centre houses a 20-strong team, on hand to show customers and would-be early adopters how the track and trace technology can be used in a real-life situation.

The Dublin RFID campus is IBM's 20th worldwide and the second in Europe, after its La Gaude centre in France. IBM's Irish centre will be the company's largest dedicated facility, the company said.

IBM has already thrown its weight and a considerable amount of its cash behind RFID - some $250m over five years.

Colm Shorten, manager of the RFID centre, said the facility is designed to take the mystery out of the technology for the tag-curious. "Clients are saying, 'OK, we've heard about it, now we want to see it'," he said. "This is hands-on."

Photo credit: IBM

40148578-2-neck-thing.jpg
2 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

The Dublin centre is showcasing one of the most potentially controversial applications of RFID: people tracking.

This tag, pictured worn around the neck of an IBM demonstrator, can help companies locate their workers. Tags such as these currently cost around $100, although prices are expected to halve within the next 12 months.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-3-peopletracking2.jpg
3 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

The location of the tags is then displayed graphically on a PC – here, the positions of five tag-wearing IBM workers are displayed onscreen.

According to IBM, one global petroleum company is already using this product to track the whereabouts of staff on an oil rig.

In the event of an emergency, each staff member can be located or the system can be used to set up a system of permissions and warnings – for example, should an unqualified staff member stray into a potentially dangerous area of the rig, the relevant personnel can be notified and accidents averted.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-4-printing-equipment.jpg
4 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

Retail is one of the most keen adopters of RFID. Here, IBM demonstrates a 'slap and ship' approach

The equipment can be used to print off labels containing both RFID tags and bar codes, which can then be scanned manually, using the handheld reader shown here, or automatically.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-5-conveyor-belt.jpg
5 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

One typical example of machine-reading environment is a conveyor belt, with RFID readers built into a structure housing the belt itself.

The equipment on display can read around 40 tags per second, meaning a box such as this can have its contents scanned almost instantaneously. Once the unique tags on the codes are read, they are checked against a database containing product details. Information can then be recorded and displayed instantly on a PC or handheld.

Technology such as this is already in use in the retail sector, in warehouses or distribution centres.

Retail is set to be one of the biggest users of RFID for some time to come according to recent research. The retail/consumer goods industry has spent $230m on equipping pallets and cases with RFID.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-6-portal.jpg
6 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

Big Blue likes to "eat is own cooking", according to execs.

This is an RFID 'portal', which contains a number of RFID readers; seven of which are used by IBM on the Dublin campus.

In the Irish centre, IBM staff carry laptops with an RFID chipped bar attached. When they enter or leave the building - walking under a portal like this one - or when laptops are moved around the campus, IBM can check exactly where its equipment has ended up.

Using this system, RFID-chipped devices can typically be located to within a distance of between three and five metres, although greater degrees of accuracy are possible.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-7-portal-pc.jpg
7 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

The coming and going of the laptops and their owners can then be displayed on a PC, to help bosses track costly assets.

IBM is already in talks with one PC manufacturer about integrating chips into the casing of laptops to help prevent theft and relocate misplaced equipment.

Photo credit: Jo Best

40148578-8-voip-neck.jpg
8 of 8 Jo Best/ZDNet

The Dublin centre also demonstrates how RFID can be integrated with other technologies, including VoIP.

This VoIP device, worn around the neck, can be connected to a corporate network, using wi-fi, along with RFID infrastructure. Both in turn can be linked up to a company's ERP systems.

This device, similar to a VoIP pager, could be put to use in a supermarket or retailer. A consumer can walk a bag of RFID-chipped shopping past a tag reader and instantly have the items rung up. Payment can also be completed this way if a consumer is carrying an RFID loyalty card.

In the case of queries thrown up by the tagged goods – whether a consumer is old enough to buy alcohol, for example – the system can alert a manager through his VoIP device.

One of the world's largest retail groups, Metro, is already trialling similar applications of RFID with smart checkouts, which read tags on goods and charge customers accordingly.

While the cost of tags - still around 20 cents each - has turned off most retailers from item-level tagging, RFID standards body GS1 believes that the one cent tag will arrive from as early as 2012.

RFID take-up is expected to boom once tags hit five cents.

Photo credit: Jo Best

Related Galleries

Say hello to the early days of web browsers
netscape-shutterstock-189041855.jpg

Related Galleries

Say hello to the early days of web browsers

9 Photos
TRENDnet TUC-ET5G USB-C 3.1 to 5GBASE-T Ethernet adapter
TRENDnet TUC-ET5G

Related Galleries

TRENDnet TUC-ET5G USB-C 3.1 to 5GBASE-T Ethernet adapter

20 Photos
Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C hub
Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C hub

Related Galleries

Anker PowerExpand 8-in-1 USB-C hub

7 Photos
Netgear Orbi RBK752 tri-band Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 mesh
Netgear Orbi RBK752

Related Galleries

Netgear Orbi RBK752 tri-band Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 mesh

8 Photos
Plugable UD-CA1A USB-C dock
Plugable UD-CA1A USB-C docking station

Related Galleries

Plugable UD-CA1A USB-C dock

7 Photos
OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter
OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter

Related Galleries

OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter

4 Photos
Plugable super-fast 2.5Gbps Ethernet adapter (in pictures)
Plugable 2.5Gbps Ethernet adapter

Related Galleries

Plugable super-fast 2.5Gbps Ethernet adapter (in pictures)

14 Photos