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HP's RFID Center of Excellence to Market Cloud-based Rotating RFID Portal

The center is preparing to offer the portal—featuring an RFID reader that revolves around a pallet loaded with tagged items—to companies in Brazil and worldwide.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 08, 2014

The RFID Center of Excellence Powered by HP, located in Brazil, has developed an automated radio frequency identification portal consisting of a rotating RFID reader integrated with a cloud-based software platform. Hewlett-Packard launched the center in 2005, in partnership with Flextronics Institute of Technology (FIT)—the IT division of HP's Brazilian product manufacturer, Flextronics—to develop and apply RFID technology for both FIT and HP, as well as commercialize the solutions for other end users in Brazil and throughout the world, specifically for warehousing in any industry (such as aviation, government and health care), as well as manufacturing and logistics.

The reader portal—a freestanding metallic framework containing a rotating arm fitted with a reader antenna—has reduced the amount of time that HP and FIT spent capturing RFID reads of each tagged printer and cartridge passing through it, as well as reducing the incidence of errors related to missed tag reads. The center has also developed cloud-based software that collects, stores and manages read data for management, either onsite or at a remote location, says Armando Lucrécio, FIT's laboratory manager. The two companies now intend to market the system for use by customers beyond FIT and HP, by the end of this year.

The reader portal consists of a freestanding metallic framework containing a rotating arm fitted with a reader antenna.
In 2002, Hewlett-Packard began investigating RFID as a technology for use internally, as well as by its partners and customers, according to Rafael Rapp, HP Brazil's director of operations business analysis. Two years later, at Flextronics' manufacturing plant in Sorocaba, São Paulo, HP began piloting its first RFID system on Flextronics' production lines through which HP's inkjet and LaserJet printers passed on pallets, with as many as 73 to 108 products stacked on a single pallet.

The Flextronics site was an ideal location for this pilot, Rapp says, as HP Brazil manages the complete supply chain in that country, including all manufacturing, packing, distribution and reverse logistics. In other parts of the world, HP's printers are produced in Asia and bulk-shipped to a particular region.

At that time, Rapp explains, "a cross-functional team was set up in Brazil to manage the project implementation," and HP launched the Center of Excellence to facilitate that work.

The technology has now been installed to track all HP printers as they move through outbound portals from production lines at Flextronics' Sorocaba site.

The challenge for HP and FIT was to capture tags' ID numbers, even when those tags were attached to boxes packed in the center of a pallet. Due to the high density of metal in the products, tag transmissions could be difficult to receive, unless the reader antennas had a very specific orientation that matched the tags' position on the pallet. Therefore, the pallet had to be adjusted at times, in order to ensure a read of every tag. According to the company, approximately 60 seconds were required to obtain a 100 percent read of a pallet loaded with tagged printers.

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