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Sun Announces RFID Asset Tracking Solution

Sun Microsystems today announced the Sun RFID Industry Solution for Physical Asset Tracking to monitor the location of non-networked assets geographically distributed across an enterprise.
Oct 26, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

October 26, 2005—Sun Microsystems today announced the Sun RFID Industry Solution for Physical Asset Tracking to monitor the location of non-networked assets geographically distributed across an enterprise. It includes Solaris 10 OS, Sun Java Enterprise System, Sun Java System RFID Software, and the mobile asset management system from Applied Logistics Solutions. RFID Update spoke about the new offering with Julie Sarbacker, Director of Sun's RFID business unit, and Jim Clark, Chief RFID Architect.

According to Sarbacker, the solution is aimed at answering the question: "How do you keep track of thousands of [enterprise] assets that are constantly changing location and not attached to the network?" She said, "Through this solution we're taking those non-networked assets and being able to track them and integrate them with already networked assets." The system offers a real-time view onto the physical location of assets and can issue alerts when an asset is not in its prescribed spot. According to Chief RFID Architect Clark, the system is compatible with devices from the leading RFID hardware vendors. "We support all the major players," he said.

The solution has already been deployed and generated huge gains at Sun's own Shared Lab Project in Newark, California. The 6,000 square foot facility houses 10,000 devices, all of which Sun needs to inventory. Historically, the company outsourced the inventorying to a firm that executed the laborious process manually over the course of about six weeks. The service cost Sun $2 million annually. Not only that, the process took so long that some of the inventory information would change over the six-week process, resulting in inaccuracies in the final report. With the company's physical asset tracking solution now deployed, "we're now able to do the inventory in under an hour," said Sarbacker.

When asked for a quantification of the deployment's ROI, Sarbacker cited extremely compelling figures: their asset tracking solution deployment cost $200,000 versus the $2 million previously paid for the outsourced inventory process. She noted that the beyond those clear economic benefits, the RFID asset tracking solution allows Sun to take inventory once a week rather than once a year. "It's 52 times better," she said. Furthermore, the RFID solution eliminates flaws seen in the previous manual system, such as the inability to count lost and misplaced assets and the aforementioned inaccuracies in the final inventory report.

Sun's move into the RFID asset tracking space is emblematic of a wider trend. Due to the mandates, RFID had captured the mindshare and imagination of C-level executives. But after the hype subsided and a widely-held view took hold that ROI for supply chain RFID is elusive, enterprises started exploring other ways to exploit the technology. Closed-loop asset tracking has become the answer for many of them. As Clark said when asked about the increasing industry and press attention paid to RFID asset tracking, "I think it's got the best ROI of any [RFID] solution out there."

Read the Sun Microsystems press release
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