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AspireRFID Can Lower Deployment Costs

The project, involving academic and research institutions across Europe, has developed free open-source RFID middleware, and is currently working to create a range of tools to facilitate RFID deployment.
By John Soldatos
Through this deployment, Staff Jeans realized the following benefits:
• Improved accuracy and reduced labor costs in such procedures as receiving and shipping. Moreover, both processes were significantly accelerated, given that RFID obviated the need for manual item-level processing.
• Real-time visibility into its own supply chain processes, with particular emphasis on inventory processes. The ability to inventory in real time empowers the company to better plan deliveries to retail stores. This is of the uttermost importance in the apparel industry, in which there is little room for returns.

According to Staff Jeans' management, the deployment of RFID has led to a positive return on investment (ROI). As a result of this positive ROI, the firm plans to conduct an extension of the pilot within 2009.

On the downside, this pilot deployment has also revealed that RFID is not a panacea for improving all business processes. As a characteristic example, Staff Jeans did not see any benefit in their pick-and-pack processes, in which RFID deployment seemed to offer no tangible improvement over its existing bar-code deployment. At the same time, as the company tags its own products (item-level tagging), its management argues that the firm's consumables budget (i.e., passive EPC tags) is quite high. This is because the company accounts for the total cost, rather than the relative cost (tag per item).

SENSAP established the Staff Jeans pilot, utilizing the AspireRFID middleware. Two additional pilots based on AspireRFID middleware are slated to take place in late 2009 and the beginning of 2010.

AspireRFID Roadmap
The project has recently released software modules covering several middleware functions and tools, which have been used in the trial described above. AspireRFID has a longer-term roadmap, however, which extends beyond the three-year lifetime of the ASPIRE project (2008-2010). Hence, the project endeavors to attract interested contributors, as well as potential end users.

The AspireRFID roadmap also includes the following development activities:
• Improving the maturity of the middleware and tools.
• Integrating the workflow management of RFID-enabled processes, thereby enabling RFID consultants to visually design, test and deploy complex RFID processes.
• Creating tools for end-to-end management of the RFID infrastructure, which will assist companies in ensuring that their RFID systems operate as expected.
• Devising and implementing reusable solution templates that could be applied in many similar use cases, in areas such as logistics and process management.
• Implementing connector interfaces to popular enterprise systems—notably, ERP and WMS systems.

Additional Information
Further information regarding the AspireRFID Open Source project is available online at the AspireRFID Wiki. The project's source code can be accessed at the AspireRFID Forge Web site.

John Soldatos is an associate professor at Athens Information Technology. He and Didier Donsez, a professor at Université Joseph Fourier, are the initiators and technical leaders of the AspireRFID project.

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