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HP Canada Partners With Universities to Create RFID Labs

The joint effort, participants say, helps all involved parties conduct RFID pilots, carry out research and better serve the needs of industrial companies and other end users.
By Claire Swedberg
"Alberta is the hub of oil and gas," Garcia says, indicating that SAIT was a suitable location for a lab to serve that industry. HP Canada intends to assist the RAD Lab with its RFID research, drawing from HP's 75,000 researchers worldwide. In addition, the lab received $300,000 funding from the Western Economic Diversification Canada, a federal funding agency supporting the commercialization and adoption of technology involving Western Canadian industry and academic institutions.

"I personally have believed in collaboration with academia," Garcia says. "Typically, universities do fundamental research and often come up with brilliant ideas but have no idea how to commercialize them." To that end, HP Canada helps academic researchers determine how the system they conceptualize might enable a customer to make more money, cut costs or reduce risk, then assists in developing such a system.

"The business outcome is key," Garcia says. For HP Canada, he notes that "[schools] often add a dimension we may not have—they help with perspective—and some of these people end up working for us, or taking us to customers we may not be exposed to." In some cases, he explains, customers come to the HP lab with specific business requirements that go beyond HP's products, services and solutions. "That is where a crucial link is established with HP's academic partners. We can help bridge emerging technologies through research, simulations, proof-of-concepts and education and training."

SAIT Polytechnic is not the first school to create an RFID lab modeled on HP's RFID Customer Experience Center. In June 2005, the École Polytechnique de Montréal built its own such facility. École Polytechnique's lab, Garcia recalls, had a particular interest in how RFID is deployed in the supply chain. Since then, the university's researchers have collaborated with HP Canada on several RFID projects, including one in which the school provided proof-of-concept.

HP is also providing integration for an RFID system for Hydro-Québec, the hydroelectric power company for the Quebec area. The energy producer is seeking a system to help it track its transformers throughout the supply chain. Such a system, however, has not yet been deployed.

Currently, HP Canada is collaborating with a third Canadian academic institution, in northern Alberta, and is in the process of helping the school start its own RFID lab. Garcia says he hopes to see the lab completed by the end of 2007.

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