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Wal-Mart Seeks UHF for Item-Level
During a recent webinar, the retailer's RFID solutions architect explained his company's criteria for successful item-level tagging.
Mar 30, 2006—Speaking yesterday to an audience attending RFID Journal's webinar entitled "Item-Level Tagging Using UHF Gen 2, Richard Ulrich, solutions architect on Wal-Mart Stores's RFID strategy team, laid out a number of requirements his company has identified as being crucial to the success of item-level tagging. There is a need for low-cost tags and infrastructure that benefit from economies of scale, he said, and a tag used to identify goods at the item level must have a narrow read range to ensure that interrogators built into point-of-sale terminals read only those tags on items being purchased. At the same time, tags on stacked items must be readable so goods sitting on shelves can be read simultaneously.
In addition, since television sets and other large consumer items are packed and sold in single-item cases, they must be read from a distance as they move through portal readers while in transport, and again at short range at the point of sale. Any tag used at the item level must also follow a globally accepted protocol, since goods move between many countries and regulatory environments.
Before defining a strategy around item-level tagging, however, Ulrich said the industry must develop a common approach not only to what technology standards it will use, but also to how it will categorize the goods to be tracked at the item level. For example, he asked, "if Wal-Mart considers aspirin a fast-moving consumer good, and CVS calls it a pharmacy item, how will that impact the manufacturer?" If the pharmaceutical industry decides to use HF tags to identify products, but retailers require only UHF tags at the item level, this could put some manufacturers of goods sold in both retail and pharmacies in a difficult position.
"Gen 2 tags are performing very well at the case and pallet level, but can UHF Gen 2 be used at the item level? If it can, then that's what we need," Ulrich explained. "There are two technology standards for electronic article surveillance, so DVD makers need to use both types of EAS tags. We don't want that same type of thing to happen with RFID."
Chris Diorio, chairman, founder and vice president of RFID engineering at the Seattle-based RFID chipmaker Impinj, and Ian Forster, technical director of RFID for tagmaker Avery Dennison, also spoke during the webinar, which was sponsored by Impinj. Both men expressed their belief that Gen 2 UHF tags can be used at the item level, and presented to webinar attendees the reasons they believe this possible.
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