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Research Requirements Emerge From RFID Academic Convocation

End users and researchers agreed on the research that must be done to support adoption of the EPCglobal Network.
By Andrew Price
May 21, 2007Leading RFID strategy and supply chain executives with a shared interest in the health-care supply chain, as well as large end-user companies from aerospace and the Universal Postal Union, met with academic researchers to solidify research requirements in collaborative discussions during the fifth RFID Academic Convocation, held on April 30 in conjunction with RFID Journal LIVE! 2007. Participants focused on the strong need for fact-based simulation results to support EPC Network architecture initiatives, especially with regard to the supply chains for health care and the life sciences, and for clearer business cases for RIFD adoption.

"The fifth convocation represented another important opportunity to bring industry business leaders and RFID systems vendors together with the academic research community to address key issues that companies are facing as they seek to deploy RFID technologies," says Stephen Miles, a research engineer at the MIT Auto-ID Labs. "We're working to bring to bear the creativity and experience of academia to work with end users and technology providers, to solve the fundamental research problems required to move RFID forward."

Bill Hardgrave, convocation cochair and director of the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center, moderated a panel entitled "Transforming the Health-Care Supply Chain—Business Requirements." The panelists consisted of Carolyn Walton, vice president of information systems at Wal-Mart Stores; Ron Bone, senior vice president of distribution planning at McKesson; Mike Rose, vice president of RFID/EPC global value chain at Johnson & Johnson; and Leslie Hand, director of global RFID strategy for Ahold USA.

Walton discussed the formation of the Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics, which will be housed at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. Wal-Mart has partnered with the university and several Blue Cross Blue Shield companies to study how radio frequency identification and other technologies might best be used to improve the health-care industry's supply-chain challenges. To spearhead the effort, Wal-Mart is pledging $1 million in funding over the next five years (see Wal-Mart, Univ. of Ark., Blue Cross to Create Research Center for Health-Care Logistics).

Researchers presented several RFID academic papers in response to health-care and life-sciences industry requests from prior convocations. Included was a presentation on test methodologies for evaluating the impact of RFID on medical devices, provided by the FDA Division of Physics' Office of Science and Engineering Labs.

According to the industry panelists, the key research issues hampering the adoption of RFID are the lack of EPC Network models that can scale and handle track-and-trace and other applications. The presenters indicated that more research must be done to ensure large amounts of data can be shared securely over the EPCglobal Network, and that information is made available only to those with the security clearance to access it for such applications.

"I thought the first session of industry participants was outstanding," says Jon Williams, director of research at the MIT Auto-ID Labs. "The speakers effectively brought together a very diverse set of industry needs into a focused list of research priorities and timetables. The academic research presentations selected by the conference committee provides industry with several paths forward on research of interest to industry."

Presentations from the RFID Academic Convocation are available on the Auto-ID Labs web site. For further details about the panels at the event, provided by Miles, see Highlights From the Fifth RFID Academic Convocation.

"We're proud to play a role in facilitating the collaboration among academics, regulators, vendors and end users," says Mark Roberti, founder and editor of RFID Journal. "A lot of progress will be made over the next 12 months, and we're looking forward to cohosting future RFID Academic Convocations with MIT."
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