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Auto-ID Center Adds Five Sponsors

CVS Corp., Metro AG, Sara Lee Corp., Toppan Printing, and Zebra Technologies back the electronic product code effort.
Tags: Standards
Jul 06, 2002July 6, 2002 -- CVS Corp., Metro AG, Sara Lee Corp., Toppan Printing, and Zebra Technologies have all become sponsors of the Auto-ID Center. The additions bring the total number of sponsors to 59.

Several of the additions are particularly significant. Toppan Printing, a $10.4 billion Japanese company, is important because the Auto-ID Center needs to penetrate the Asian market. Many of the goods that will be tracked will come from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian markets. The Auto-ID Center is working to set up one, and possible two, labs in the region.

Metro AG, the world's fourth largest retailer, joined in June. Based in Düsseldorf, the German company operates a variety of retail chains. It has 2,200 locations in 25 countries. The company declined to comment on its reasons for joining, but it is likely that Metro doesn't want to lose out to Wal-Mart, which is expanding into Europe.

As previously reported in RFID Journal, CVS Corp. has also joined the Auto-ID Center. One key application CVS is interested in is making sure all the items on its shelves haven't passed their expiration date. The company operates 4,175 drug stores. Its decision to join could spur competitors Rite Aid and Walgreen to take a look at the Auto-ID Center.

Sara Lee joins a host of global manufacturers, including Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Unilever at the Auto-ID Center. Sara Lee has operations in 58 countries and markets branded products in more than 180 nations. It makes everything from its famous cakes to Kiwi shoe polish shoes and Playtex bras.

Zebra Technologies (Nasdaq: ZBRA) is an example of another bar code company jumping on the RFID bandwagon. Zebra is a leading maker of bar code and plastic card printers and printing materials (ribbons and ticket stock) for automatic identification and data collection systems. Zebra does sell some RFID printer/encoders. It competes with Symbol Technologies, which is also a member of the Auto-ID Center.

It's likely the new additions will encourage competitors to join, which will encourage more companies to join. It's hard to say when the center will reach critical mass, but that point may not be too far away.
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