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To Future-Proof its Future Store, Metro Group Opted for EPCglobal Standards

The retailer claims that its Future Store's butcher shop uses one of the world's first full-blown EPCIS software stacks.
By Rhea Wessel
Sep 26, 2008The Metro Group's RFID application in the butcher shop of its new Future Store uses one of the world's first full-blown EPC Information Service (EPCIS) stacks since all layers of software ("stacks") are compatible with EPCglobal standards, the retailer says.

EPCIS network infrastructure enables companies to store data associated with EPC RID tags in secure databases on the Web and to provide different levels of access to that data to different groups. Some information associated with an EPC might be available to everyone, while other information might be available only to a manufacturer's retail customers.

The butcher shop is using EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags to track individual packages of meat, ensuring its display cases are well stocked, and that no one buys expired products (see RFID Helps Assure Meat Quality). The designers of the system also had another goal: They wanted to develop a system that complied with EPCglobal standards on all levels so that outside companies could easily connect to it.

"We strongly believe that it is strategically vital to avoid proprietary software interfaces, because it is the only chance to establish a dual-vendor strategy not only in hardware but also in terms of software components in the stack," says Christian Plenge, the head of research and innovation at Metro Group Information Technology. "All interfaces of the system at our new Future Store are standardized, allowing us to change the application or the vendor. If you have standardized interfaces, you can exchange data with supply chain partners much easier than without, and we're much less vulnerable if we would have to change a technology partner."

The butcher application uses NoFilis' CrossTalk Control Center device management software to format data collected via RFID for Metro Group's ERP system. CrossTalk also controls devices so they can communicate effectively. By using the CrossTalk Control Center rather than connecting readers directly to its SAP ERP system, Metro Group gains flexibility and openness, NoFilis claims. For instance, if a person replaces a piece of hardware, the CrossTalk Control Center will make sure it is configured in the same way the previous hardware was configured.

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