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Europe Is Rolling Out RFID

In the midst of a financial crisis, many companies in myriad industries are investing in the technology to boost profits.
By John Edwards
Oct 01, 2012Greece is tottering, Spain is worried, Italy is hoping for the best and Germany is looking for solutions. Europe is facing difficult financial times, to say the least. Yet, as politicians ponder their options, bankers seek relief and investors search for new possibilities, the radio frequency identification industry is defying financial gravity by helping European customers operate leaner, more productively and with greater insight into key business operations. During a time when money is scarce and people are scared, RFID stands as a beacon of hope and progress.

"The European RFID market is currently growing, and the market outlook looks positive," says Ram Ravi, a senior RFID analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a technology research firm headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. "The future of RFID in Europe looks good." Frost & Sullivan estimates that the European RFID market hovered at around $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in 2011 and will likely surge to between $3.7 billion and $4 billion by 2018.

Photo: iStockphoto

RFID's ability to boost productivity while lowering costs continues to attract new adopters in Europe, even at a time when money is extremely tight, says Michael Liard, RFID analysis director at VDC Research, a technology insights company based in Natick, Mass. He notes that more European businesses are starting to view RFID as an immediately available solution rather than as a promising technology. "I think the story that needs to be told now... is the value RFID can bring to operations and the cost savings it can deliver," he says. "It is about business process and operational performance improvements before it is about technology change."

Several years ago, the European Union and nations across Europe directly financed a variety of initiatives designed to encourage RFID use in a wide range of vertical markets.

Beginning in 2006, the EU-funded BRIDGE (Building Radio Frequency IDentification for the Global Environment) initiative tackled the tough job of creating a technology base that could be shared efficiently across business sectors. In its final 2009 report, BRIDGE Coordinator Henri Barthel writes: "The business work packages identified the opportunities, established the business cases and performed trials and implementation in various sectors including anti-counterfeiting, pharmaceuticals, textile, manufacturing re-usable assets, products in service and retail non-food items."

Government assistance helped Gerry Weber International, a major European fashion retailer, headquartered in Westphalia, Germany, gain experience with RFID technology. After completing an initial project with Metro Group, another major German retailer, Gerry Weber joined a government-backed venture. "The breakthrough was an... R&D project named Ko-RFID, together with three universities and some industry partners starting in 2006," says Christian von Grone, CIO of Gerry Weber. The Ko-RFID R&D project was funded partially by the German Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology.

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