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RFID4SME Seeks to Help Small-to-Midsize European Companies

Four research institutes in Ireland, Spain and Germany are carrying out RFID information campaigns, demonstration projects and proof-of-concept studies for SMEs in their regions.
By Rhea Wessel
To coordinate their work, the institutes will meet five times during the RFID4SME project, which commenced in July 2006 and is slated to end in December 2007. The first two meetings have already been held, in Ireland and Germany. A third project meeting and a daylong event for the public will take place on March 28, at the Limerick Race Course in Ireland, where lectures and RFID demonstrations will take place.

RFID4SME is being funded with just more than half a million euros ($652,000). Seventy-five percent of that comes from the EU's Interreg program, which funds inter-European regional partnerships. The project's members are contributing the other 25 percent. Each partner is committed to providing for free an RFID event, two training courses and best practice reports and guidelines. The partners in Spain and Ireland are also offering up to three days of free consulting to regional SMEs that might benefit from RFID technologies, with a maximum of 30 days of free consulting.

So what's holding up RFID adoption by Europe's SMEs? ITT researcher Ed Sheldon explains that companies are afraid of the technology because of all the hype, and that they need to see a clear chance to gain a return on investment. "That's the primary issue," he says. "Companies feel they don't have a specific need when they can use the bar code."

Inigo Felgueroso of PRODINTEC agrees. "In the supply chain of the SMEs," he says, "it is not very clear how RFID can guarantee an ROI. More seminars, courses and events about the benefits and opportunities would help the introduction of RFID. It is very important to inform SMEs about the importance of the technology, and to assist them in their initial developments in RFID."

To help promote RFID in its own region, each RFID4SME member has initiated a range of projects. The wireless and mobility research group at the Institute of Technology Tralee has been researching active and passive RFID technology for more than two years, with most of its work focused on pilots and proofs of concept. As part of the RFID4SME project, the institute is hosting the Limerick event, for which it is creating two demonstrations—one to track blood products, and another about name tags. The institute will also provide 30 days of free consulting to help companies develop RFID pilots.

PRODINTEC, a nonprofit foundation funded by the Asturias regional government in Spain, aims to help local companies become more competitive by applying new technologies such as RFID. The foundation is developing an RFID demonstration to trace components used in non-automated workplaces. Another demonstration will incorporate RFID into packaging. In addition to providing consultation services, PRODINTEC is also developing technology guidelines and best-practice reports, as well as holding regional seminars and workshops.

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