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HP Launches Service That Applies Tags to Items It Ships

The company will affix EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to the blade servers and other IT assets its customers order, enabling them to begin tracking the items' locations as soon as they receive them.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 09, 2008Hewlett-Packard is expanding its RFID services for IT-infrastructure tracking with the introduction of the HP Factory Express RFID service, launched today. The service features the application of EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to the blade servers and other IT assets a company orders, and is an extension of HP's Factory Express offering. Factory Express provides HP's customers with preconfigured IT products that the company installs and tests for them, allowing the customers to get up and running with functional servers, data storage and other IT products right out of the box.

By having the HP Factory Express RFID service apply tags to the product they order, says Frank Lanza, worldwide RFID director for HP's Technology Solutions Group, customers can employ fixed-position or handheld RFID readers to begin tracking the IT assets' locations as soon as they receive them.

HP also offers the IT Asset Tracking service, developed by the company's R&D arm, HP Labs, located in Palo Alto, Calif. Grocery chain operator Meijer vetted the system, comprised of RFID tags, interrogators and software, beginning in 2006 (see Meijer Tests HP's IT Asset-Tracking RFID System). Meijer has since deployed the system, Lanza says, and a number of other companies have done so as well, to track IT assets in their respective data centers.

HP created its Factory Express RFID service in response to customer demand for a way to enable customers to begin tracking blade servers and other newly purchased IT assets upon receiving them from HP. "With the advent of blade servers and virtualization, coupled with increasing enterprise concerns on privacy protection and risk, IT managers toss and turn at night worrying about someone walking out of their data centers with their blade servers [which often store valuable or sensitive business data]," says Michael Dortch, a senior analyst with market research firm Aberdeen Group.

Although RFID technology vendors have long identified IT asset tracking as a strong potential market for RFID, Dortch says, technical shortcomings with passive tags, due to RF interference in the metal-rich data centers, as well as the high cost of adding active tags to large numbers of IT assets, have forced many companies to hold off deploying the technology in their data centers.

But improvements in the readability of passive tags, through improved form factors and chip design for Gen 2 tags, is opening the door for more firms to begin employing RFID. "Using RFID in the computer room is growing by leaps and bounds right now," says John Fontenalla, VP of market research firm AMR Research.

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