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10/17/2006
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RFID Show Draws A Crowd

A conference on RFID and related tracking technologies is attracting some big names to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week.

A conference on RFID and related tracking technologies is attracting some big names to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week. It's called the EPCglobal Inc. conference, and it's reeled in a slew of venders including Alien Technology, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Intermec, Impinj, Oracle, Parco Wireless, Paxar, Savi Technology, and Symbol.

In one announcement at the show, Alien Technology on Tuesday said it has collaborated with Oracle and Intel to develop an RFID platform for transportation, automotive and aerospace industries.

In another, Hewlett-Packard & Co. researchers created a RFID asset tracking technology for data centers. The application is being tested by Grand Rapids, Mich., Meijer Inc., a retailer with more than 170 grocery and specialty stores through the mid-west United States, said Cyril Brignone, HP Labs research and development manager.

Using RFID, the IT tracking platform developed by the HP Labs research group automatically monitors data center assets, providing real-time tracking and auditing of servers, networking equipment, and server and storage enclosures.

Forty two tiny antennas placed in metal-rack slots monitor individual assets, said Brignone. "One of the main considerations was being able to read the tags in a rack full of metal, which typically doesn't work well with RFID," he said. "We had to build custom antennas that sit inside the door on each of the racks."

Although RFID has failed to take on greater adoption in 2006 as forecast, analysts remain relatively bullish on the technology meant to help manage inventory, reduce costs and provide efficiencies for a variety of industries, from retail to automotive to pharmaceutical.

"The market hasn't reached the level many companies expected," said Michael Liard, research director for RFID and contactless technology at ABI Research. "Given today's state of the compliance-based RFID market, an overnight explosion is unlikely. During the past three years, supply chain applications have had a hurry-up-and-wait feel."

Along with Liard, Gartner Research vice president Jeff Woods expects a lot of technology announcements at this week's conference.

"Most of the keys to success in RFID projects are not technology related," Woods said. "People should look for advances in business processes because it's easy to get swept up in a flurry of technology advances, but unless there are concrete advances the project isn't moving forward."

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