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SAP Aims to Support Innovation in European RFID Market

At its Sapphire conference this week, the company spelled out its strategy to develop software for systems using radio frequency identification.
By Rhea Wessel
May 15, 2007Compared with the United States, where RFID implementations are frequently driven by mandates, the European market for radio frequency identification is growing as companies across the continent experiment with the technology and devise unique ways to use it, says Tobias Goetz, the manager in charge of business development for SAP's RFID products in Europe. At this week's Sapphire conference, which SAP is holding in Vienna until Wednesday, Goetz told attendees that the enterprise software maker aims to support this innovation in the European market with a two-pronged strategy.

First, SAP is developing its software infrastructure to be flexible and easy to implement for existing processes. Second, the company is offering preconfigured templates to help users manage such standard processes as kanban manufacturing or tracking inbound or outbound goods.

Tobias Goetz
"Our strategy," Goetz explains, "is to support the innovative character of the European RFID projects by making our solution as easily adaptable and flexible as possible. On the one hand, that means the local Auto-ID Infrastructure, but also the Object Event Repository." The company announced its Object Event Repository (OER) software—which will aggregate RFID, sensor and other ID data—in March (see SAP Introduces Software for Product Tracking) and expects to take the product to market at the end of the month. The software is based on EPCglobal's newly ratified Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard.

"By aligning with the EPCIS," Goetz says, "we are thinking we are one of the first in the market offering this capability—and one of the market leaders."

Goetz notes that many European companies are still prototyping and making trial runs with RFID for specific, isolated process. "Therefore, to satisfy this, we have established fixed-price packages including the license, the consulting and, partially, the hardware as well," he says, adding, "Most European customers are still using closed-loop scenarios, and therefore this offer works very well."

Krish Mantripragada, SAP's head of RFID and auto-ID solutions, also praised innovation in the European market. "A majority of our deployments in Europe are internally driven," he says. "No mandates. Most of them are very innovative applications compared to what we have seen in other parts of the world. And, quite a few of them are already positive ROI…What's very encouraging is that they are internally motivated. They are both efficiency-driven, as well as new processes that look at a different way of doing things."

When asked if SAP products were too expensive for smaller European companies, Goetz repliesd: "It's really in my interest to clarify this rumor. Looking at the Auto-ID Infrastructure [SAP's RFID platform], we're really talking about a lean, easy-to-install solution. We're talking about 10 to a maximum of 30 man-days of implementation. This is for the complete setup for the infrastructure: installation, configuration, user training and everything."

He adds: "This shows that we're also targeting the mid-sized businesses. We already have references in this area, such as Grammer, an auto parts supplier, or the university hospital in Jena (see German Hospital Expects RFID to Eradicate Drug Errors)."

Separately, RFID appears to play only a small role in this year's Sapphire conference, with only two presentations offered on the subject. One was given by Mantripragada about industry adoption of RFID, while the second will be a cross-industry panel discussion, to be held on Wednesday featuring representatives from Grammer, Novartis and logistics company DHL.

Goetz denies that RFID is being played down at the conference, pointing out that the opening keynote session included a demonstration of the technology.
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