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Germany's RFID-based Automotive Network Gets Rolling

More than a dozen automakers, suppliers, logistics companies, research institutes and IT firms are working on both a standardized use of RFID technology, and data exchange within the network.
By Rhea Wessel
Jul 11, 2011A consortium of roughly 20 automobile manufacturers, suppliers, logistics firms, research institutes and IT and software companies is testing the use of radio frequency identification in production and logistics processes within Germany's automotive industry, as part of the RFID-based Automotive Network (RAN) project.

Participating car manufacturers, such as Daimler, BMW and Opel, will pilot RFID applications and share their results with project members. Daimler's use case involves tagging production containers to track them between two countries. BMW will monitor containers as they move between the automaker's facilities and suppliers along the production chain. And Opel intends to test the continuous use of RFID—during vehicle manufacturing and logistics, as well as by dealers and repair shops and, ultimately, by the consumers who purchase the company's vehicles.

Daimler is using Omni-ID's Max SQ tag on shipments of car engines to factories in the United States.
Supported by Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the companies are working together to kick-start the implementation of RFID within the German automotive industry. RAN is one of 12 projects in that nation's federally funded Autonomik technology program, which focuses on autonomous and simulation-based systems for midsize German businesses.

During the course of the three-year project, participants and sponsors will invest more than €45 million ($63 million) to develop standards for the automotive industry that will optimize RFID's use and implementation. A second goal is to help participating companies improve internal processes, such as reducing the number of bar-code readings required during car production and handling. Finally, consortium members aim to develop a database concept of standardized event-based production and logistics information that will provide partners with real- or near-real-time information regarding the locations of goods, as well as their production status, using a standardized data-exchange platform. Related software programs will be utilized to process that data so it can be used to improve process control.

A year and a half into the project, the partners have decided to employ EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, and are considering whether they will also use other types of tags as well. In addition, they are establishing an "information broker" data-exchange system based on EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standards at each partner's facilities, with a centrally controlled system that will help optimize processes.

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