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Two More RFID Test Centers Open

Software provider RedPrairie and systems integrator Xterprise launch facilities to help suppliers ensure compliance with Wal-Mart's RFID requirements.
By Bob Violino
Nov 27, 2003Wal-Mart suppliers are going to need some way to ensure that they can comply with the retailer's RFID requirements. Vendors are rushing in to help them out. This week, two more companies—RedPrairie and Xterprise—have announced the opening of RFID test centers for suppliers.
RedPrairie's Dempsey

RedPrairie, a provider of supply chain software, has created what it says is the first EPC-compliant RFID laboratory to test RFID technology in a real-world environment. Wal-Mart suppliers and other companies can use the RFID tags and readers in RedPrairie's RFID Lab to test different tag sizes and shapes on their own products.

"The Wal-Mart mandate says you are responsible for 100 percent read accuracy on your products," says Mike Dempsey, industry strategy leader at RedPrairie. "As a solution provider, we felt it necessary to have a service offering that would allow customers to send their products to us and for us to test them in a lab environment to optimize things like tag placement and tag size."

The RFID lab is located at RedPrairie's Waukesha, Wis., headquarters. It's next to the company's wireless lab, where the company tests wireless local-area network equipment used in warehouses. RedPrairie employees can test readers in the wireless lab, so they can see how their performance is affected by interference from other wireless devices that might be used in a real-world environment.

The new RFID lab has handheld and portal readers from a number of technology vendors, including Alien Technology, Matrics and Intermec Technologies. RedPrairie will use these to test read accuracy on tags attached to a customer's products. The software vendor envisions moving the lab to a larger space that can accommodate readers on conveyors and forklift trucks. RedPrairie is also developing a mobile lab that can be driven to client sites and industry events.

"We see strong demand for [the services RedPrairie will provide at the test center], particularly next year when the next 20,000 Wal-Mart suppliers have to prepare to meet the mandate," says Dempsey. "Most of them are not going to want to buy RFID tags and readers, figure out where to place them on products and perform test themselves" to ensure compliance.

The facility and related services are available to both RedPrairie's customers and those who do not currently use its software products. The company will charge each user according to the services needed.

Xterprise, an RFID systems integrator based in Dallas, Texas, has opened an EPC and RFID solution center in North Dallas. The facility is a 15,000-sq.-ft. warehouse with multiple dock door and conveyor configurations and is capable of testing compliance with Wal-Mart's RFID requirements.

Xterprise will use the facility to help suppliers choose an appropriate RFID label, develop a label application process, test reader configurations, check read accuracy as tagged products move along a conveyor or through a portal and deal with workflow and integration issues.

Xterprise has also introduced two fixed-price services. The first, Business Assessment, includes an analysis of the business case, workflow and technology compliance risks associated with meeting Wal-Mart's mandate. The price for the service is $45,000 to $60,000 depending on the size and scope of the analysis required.

The second, Technology Feasibility Testing in the Dallas test center, covers everything a company will need to achieve compliance with Wal-Mart's RFID requirement. If a company has developed a solution, Xterprise will test it in its facilities and make recommendations for improving the read accuracy.

Xterprise expects that most of its customers will not have deployed an RFID system aimed at satisfying Wal-Mart's mandate, so Xterprise will recommend tagging configurations, reader setups for dock doors and conveyors, and the integration work that needs to done with existing warehouse management systems. The testing is done according to established 6 Sigma principles. Prices range from $95,000 to $140,000 based on the number of sites and scope of the work.

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