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HP And IBM Invest Big In RFID

Hewlett-Packard has its sights set on the retail and consumer-goods industries, while IBM looks beyond the supply chain
Hewlett-Packard and IBM last week unveiled separate initiatives aimed at companies implementing radio-frequency identification technology. HP says it's dedicating $150 million over five years to boosting its RFID prowess into the retail and consumer packaged-goods industries, while IBM is putting $250 million in the next five years into a new business unit devoted to taking RFID beyond supply-chain applications.

HP wants to help customers get faster ROI, Frank Lanza says.

HP wants to help customers get faster ROI, Lanza says.
Partners in HP's effort are software provider OATSystems Inc., whose RFID middleware includes features for EPCglobal number management, and business-consulting and integration firm BearingPoint Inc., which will help HP provide design, architecture, and deployment services. The goal is to help customers get faster returns on investment, says Frank Lanza, worldwide director of RFID at HP.

Customers will be offered these components and services as part of a package that also includes HP ProLiant and Superdome servers and HP StorageWorks technology. "HP has been implementing RFID within its own supply chain for quite a while," IDC analyst Richard Dean says. Couple that with BearingPoint's domain expertise, and "it appears that they have come up with a very effective solution targeted toward retailers," Dean says.

IBM's new business unit, created to support actuators and sensors such as those used in RFID applications, will deliver RFID middleware this year that automates the process of managing data collected from tags and readers at customer distribution centers and stores.

But IBM also wants to look beyond sensors and tags in supply-chain environments to "smart" sensors that interpret, for example, chemical content in the air. Connecting these to RFID platforms could provide insight into how long a certain chemical has been sitting on a dock, for instance, and whether that duration has been long enough to present safety hazards.

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