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Airbus Taps ODIN, Signals Aerospace RFID Adoption

ODIN technologies yesterday announced that European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has selected it as the exclusive RFID hardware integration partner for an aggressive phase of deployment across its value chain. RFID Update spoke with ODIN's Bret Kinsella about the Airbus program and what it means for the adoption of RFID broadly.
Jun 20, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 20, 2007—RFID solutions provider ODIN technologies yesterday announced that European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has selected it as the exclusive hardware integration partner for an aggressive phase of RFID deployment across its value chain. RFID Update spoke with ODIN's chief operating officer Bret Kinsella about the Airbus program and what it means for the adoption of RFID broadly.

"This move represents a full commitment by Airbus to utilize RFID up and down its value chain," said Kinsella. "Our role is to survey the sites, design the systems, and install and maintain the hardware." Yesterday's announcement specifically addresses the first of a three-phase initiative to realize RFID-enabled visibility in the Airbus supply chain, but the company is also looking at asset tracking and other applications of the technology. "Airbus ultimately wants to provide whatever tagging solutions are beneficial to their customers," explained Kinsella. Their deployments will consist of both passive and active RFID technology.

The multiple-site, long-term engagement with Airbus marks another high-profile client win for ODIN. The company, which last week announced completion of its 125th paid deployment, was awarded a contract by the US Department of Defense last May to outfit its worldwide network of distribution centers with passive RFID infrastructure (see ODIN Wins $7m RFID Contract from DoD). "The reason why someone like ODIN looks attractive is because we've done broad roll-outs in compressed time frames," said Kinsella, who indicated the company's proprietary EASY Suite of RFID deployment optimization software also gave it a leg up.

ODIN already has people working full-time on the Airbus project in Europe. The company, which has an RFID lab in Budapest, Hungary, has aggressively grown its business in Europe across the board since the beginning of the year, according to Kinsella.

Airbus is the world's number one commercial aircraft maker and archrival of America's Boeing. That company has been a vocal and active proponent of RFID adoption, having conducted numerous pilots and participated in standards development for the airline manufacturing industry. Kenneth Porad, RFID program manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is a recognized RFID thought leader and regular presenter at industry conferences.

Airbus, by contrast, has been a less visible RFID end user. With the exception of last year's unveiling of the A380 -- the largest ever passenger airplane which contains more than 10,000 RFID tags -- there has been little public disclosure of the nature or extent of its RFID efforts. While light on details, this week's announcement of a multi-year engagement with a leading RFID solutions provider suggests that the company is getting aggressive with its adoption of the technology.

Such a development will be welcomed by the RFID industry. With both Airbus and Boeing committed to the technology, the aerospace manufacturing industry will likely see accelerated adoption. It is an important industry for RFID not just because of its sheer size (the suppliers that contribute to construction of a single airplane number in the thousands), but also because its use of RFID is multidimensional. Whereas retail, for example, has historically focused almost exclusively on supply chain visibility with passive RFID, aerospace uses both passive and active RFID to tackle everything from supply chain visibility to work-in-process tracking to maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) management.

Every industry's adoption of RFID has been punctuated by major end-user initiatives. In retail, it was the Wal-Mart mandate and to a lesser extent those of Target and Best Buy. In defense, it was the US Department of Defense mandate. Adoption in pharma got boosts from major pilots by the likes of Pfizer and Cardinal Health. This movement by Airbus could very well be an analogous signal for aerospace.

Read the announcement from ODIN technologies
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