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KPN to Use RFID to Track Phones

Trial participants will apply tags to packaging of individual mobile phones and track them as they are transported between a distribution center and retail stores operated by the Dutch telco.
By Jonathan Collins
Dec 23, 2005Hoping to benefit from radio frequency identification as both a consumer of the technology and a provider of RFID services, Dutch telecom carrier KPN plans to launch a trial in 2006. Dubbed "Tellitrace," the trial will apply tags to the packaging of individual mobile phones and track them as they leave the distribution center of TNT Logistics, KPN's logistics provider, and arrive at KPN-operated stores to be sold. The tag will be removed at the point of sale.

Additionally, staff at KPN's stores will apply tags to returned or unsold phones so RFID can be used to improve reverse logistics, as well. During the trial, KPN will also provide such RFID services as developing and hosting the application that collects RFID data, and making the RFID data available to all trial participants.

Cell phones are securely stored at the caged "warehouse within a warehouse."

KPN and TNT will work with RFID equipment vendors Symbol Technologies, which will provide EPC Class 1 Gen 2 UHF RFID tags and readers, and Zebra Technologies, which will supply RFID label printer-encoders. Each company—KPN, TNT, Symbol and Zebra—will pay their own costs for involvement in the pilot. According to KPN, the goal of the trial is to create an industry supply chain solution that can be used as a developing tool and future customer reference application for all four companies. KPN also hopes to assess the effects of RFID technology on its business operations.

The trial, set to begin in January 2006 and last for two months, is part of KPN's effort to simplify its logistics chain for mobile phones. "Currently, we have a separate 'warehouse inside a warehouse' for mobile phones, and separate business processes to handle them," says Jan Kroon, KPN's RFID project manager. "This is because the phones are small, valuable and desirable, and using the normal logistics would result in too much shrinkage. We hope that by using RFID technology for checking the processes, we can handle all merchandise with a single logistics process again." With RFID automatically tracking and monitoring individually packaged phones, the company believes it can replace the additional security measures it currently uses—which comprise cameras, a separate storage area and additional manual security checks.

On the reverse logistics side, Kroon says his company could gain a lot from using RFID to bring a uniform process to what is currently a time-consuming and costly ad hoc system for dealing with returned merchandise.

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