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Sony Europe Implements Video-RFID Tracking System

In an effort to help the company reduce shrinkage, increase efficiency and resolve shipping disputes with its retailer customers, the electronics manufacturer is installing the system at its largest European distribution warehouse.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 19, 2006Sony Europe has begun installing a tracking system that links RFID-tagged items with closed-circuit video, in an effort to help the company reduce shrinkage, increase the efficiency of its shipping processes and resolve shipping disputes with its retailer customers in Germany.

The company is installing the system at its largest European distribution warehouse in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and expects the system to be operational by March. Sony Europe believes it will get a positive return on investment (ROI) within one year of the launch.

Wolfgang Schönfeld
"We can dramatically increase ROI through process improvements, and by combining video recognition with RFID," says Wolfgang Schönfeld, the senior manager currently responsible for logistics engineering within Sony Europe. "RFID, coupled with video, helps to follow up the complete chain of a specific shipment and speed up operations."

Sony has long been a player in developing RFID-based technology for its own customers, particularly in its effort to develop near-field communications (NFC) technology (see Sony, Philips to Test RFID Platform and NXP, Sony Partner to Make Chip for NFC Apps). So far, however, its RFID use in the United States has primarily been to fulfill mandates for Wal-Mart. The new video RFID application will be Sony Europe's first large-scale internal RFID implementation.

Sony Europe had been considering RFID applications for internal use since 2004, when it began testing EPC Gen 1 technology. The company launched an internal test of tagged televisions to get experience with the hardware and software involved in RFID applications, then held an RFID workshop for all departments involved in the end-to-end supply chain in April 2005, to brainstorm ways in which RFID could be implemented. "We had about 27 ideas, but then we decided to wait until Gen 2 technology came out," says Schönfeld.

One idea that crystallized after the conference was for a video-surveillance-and-RFID system, which is now being implemented with the help of Mieloo & Alexander, a systems integrator based in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands.

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