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11/24/2004
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Reap RFID Rewards

Smart readers can filter unwanted data from the RFID network before it gets into a database

Intermec Technologies Corp. is planning to add new capabilities to its radio-frequency identification readers, as well as embed RFID technology into its own manufacturing and business processes next year.

Sales of RFID tags boosted Intermec's revenue by 16% in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, compared with the prior year. Though most companies still are assessing potential RFID benefits, many of those paybacks will be found in network efficiencies in 2005, says Intermec president Tom Miller. "Many people have focused on tags, readers, and protocols, but the RFID network extends to the edge and beyond," Miller says. "We believe in smart readers at the edge of the network to filter the data."

Intermec is building intelligence into its reader so it can act as an edge server that can rid the RFID network of unwanted data before it makes its way up to a database, as well as automate updates to multiple readers simultaneously. "This is to manage the tremendous amounts of data these networks haven't handled before," he says.

In 2005, Intermec also plans to concentrate on developing RFID- enabled software for factory-floor processes, warehouse operations, field service, direct store delivery, supply chain, in-transit visibility, store operations, and store management. Markets targeted include industrial, retail, and government. Intermec plans to con- centrate on developing imaging products for retailers and expects to release a line for in-store operations. It also has a contract worth more than $20 million with Home Depot to put mobile computers in all the retailer's new and existing stores.

For the past year, Intermec has been shipping its mobile industrial handheld computers with embedded RFID tags to manage service requests better. The tags provide the company with access to a machine's history if a handheld unit is sent in to be repaired,Miller says. "We haven't turned on the project from the services perspective, but we're ready if and when a product comes in for service," he explains.

RFID also will be used to track internal fixed assets and products as they move through the manufacturing process in Intermec's facilities. As more companies adopt RFID, Intermec will expand its initiative beyond its walls to suppliers and customers.

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