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New Zealand Group Plans RFID Trial

A group of about 60 companies and organizations in New Zealand hopes to demonstrate the potential of RFID and help businesses implement the technology.
By Jonathan Collins
Apr 28, 2006In a bid to boost the profile and understanding of Electronic Product Code (EPC) RFID technology in New Zealand, a group of local businesses plans to launch a 12-month RFID supply chain trial. Plans are underway to raise government funding for the project.

"I am working with a government department just now to secure sufficient seeding funding to enable GS1 New Zealand to get started," says Gary Hartley, GS1 New Zealand's strategic initiatives manager. "This all takes time, of course, but I would be keen to get the final planning completed by August this year for a project that would last about 12 months. I think we need to run the project for a minimum of 12 months to see how it evolves over that time."

GS1 New Zealand, the organization charged with promoting EPC in New Zealand, is working with a group interested in developing and using EPC RFID. The group believes a trial is the best way to show the technology's potential to New Zealand businesses, and to ensure their readiness in implementing RFID as international mandates and retailer requirements begin to affect New Zealand companies.

"There's going to come a time, I think, when companies are going to have to get 'skin in the game' or risk being left behind," says Hartley. "So, one key aim of the initiative is to see how the technology works, understand the challenges, understand the technical and business issues and start learning by doing."

The trial is being spearheaded by the EPC/RFID Pathfinder Group, formed in February 2005 at the EPCglobal Inaugural Conference in New Zealand. Consisting of about 60 companies and organizations, the group brings together a team of 'EPC/RFID evangelists' drawn from end users, researchers, systems integrators, consultants, academics and members of the EPCglobal staff. Its members include New Zealand retailers Progressive Enterprises and The Warehouse, meat exporter Anzco Foods, IT services companies IBM and Blackbay and the University of Auckland.

"There is a solid core of Pathfinder members, many of them members of GS1 New Zealand, and it is these companies that will form the nucleus of the pilot/trial team," says Hartley.

The goal of the trial is to create a "mini supply chain" involving logistics operators, manufacturers, retailers, systems integrators and hardware providers. The intention is to have a test supply chain, with each participant in the network functioning in the manner as they would in their day-to-day business.

"One feature of the pilot is to plan it in such a way as to enable the partners to see 'read events' in more or less real-time as products move through the supply chain. In other words, we'll be able to see the chain of custody change for a product as it moves through the partner's facilities," says Hartley. "The intention is to track pallets and cartons at this stage—and maybe, if the project extends to another phase at a later time, item-level tagging may be chosen."
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