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2/23/2006
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HP Readying For Second-Gen RFID

Hewlett-Packard uses RFID to identify and track pallets and boxes of various products shipped to some retail distribution centers, and will first switch its inkjet printer lines over to the new tags.

Hewlett-Packard & Co in April will transition to the next generation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology known as electronic product code (EPC) Gen 2 from the first generation, a company executive said at the AIM Global conference in Newport Beach, Calif., on Thursday.

The Memphis, Tenn., facility will make the transition first by apply tags to inkjet printers. HP uses RFID technology to identify and track pallets and boxes of various products shipped to select Best Buy Inc., Target Corp., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. distribution centers.

The Sao Paulo, Brazil, facility, where HP manufacturers, assembles, distributes, repairs and recycles inkjet printers, will follow in May or June. At this site, HP manages the entire supply chain from manufacturing to returns, providing a unique opportunity to create a "DNA" for each printer that moves down the manufacturing line.

The tags are then inserted in the printer chassis. They contains HP's serial number, electronic product code (EPC), and three other pieces of information. HP applies the RFID to the base of the printer chassis during the manufacturing process. "I'd like to see this in the U.S.," said Didier Chenneveau, vice president of operations for HP's Imaging & Printing Group, Americas. "The real value isn't tagging a box. It is tagging the printer so you can use the information someday if the product comes back."

HP's Chester, Va., integration and distribution facility that packages inkjet printer cartridges will make the transition, too. RFID was installed at this plant in 2004. There are seven RFID-enabled packing lines implemented today. The plant outputs approximately 200 million units annually. In 2005, 1.7 million cases were tagged. The plant is equipped with AWID readers, Oat Systems middleware, Printronix printers and Rafsec RFID tags.

Today, boxes containing 24-cartridges are tagged. But Chenneveau would like to tag individual inkjet cartridges, complete with an expiration date. The price for the RFID tag, however, must drop to between 1 cent and 2 cents, Chenneveau said. "Each Gen 1 tag costs 25ish cents and hopefully Gen 2 will cost much less," he said.

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