HP Announces RFID Partnerships

By Jonathan Collins

The computing equipment and services giant is turning to two new partnerships to extend its RFID offerings.

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Today at the EPCglobal US Conference 2004 being held in Baltimore, Hewlett-Packard plans to announce a new package of software and services geared toward companies deploying RFID in working environments. The package will include software from RFID middleware provider OATSystems. HP also plans to announce a separate deal with systems integration firm BearingPoint that will see HP providing IT infrastructure and services to BearingPoint’s clients in the retail sector.

HP's Lanza

Both partnerships reflect the ongoing shift in RFID deployments from pilots to production, says HP. “Early in the RFID adoption phase, we were asked to explain how the technology worked and how products are tagged. We still do some of that work, but not as much as six to nine months ago. Now, we talk with CIOs who already have a good sense of the technology and the potential ROI and who are looking to go about deploying RFID,” says Frank Lanza, worldwide director of RFID for HP Services.

HP’s new RFID/IS (Industrial Strength) pulls together HP’s RFID services and products, its systems management software, its consulting and integration services, and OATSystems’ OAT Foundation Suite software into a single package that HP will offer to its automotive, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, consumer electronics, retail and high-tech customers.

According to HP, these industries are leading the way in deploying RFID. “In our top 1,000 accounts, the lion’s share of RFID interest is in these segments. For example, tracking and tracing at the item level is an area most pharma companies are certainly interested in,” says Lanza.

OATSystems’ OAT Foundation Suite, HP says, will provide its customers with the software they need to manage their database of RFID events, EPC number and RFID middleware. The OAT Foundation Suite is a collection of OATSystems products, including OATaxiom, which provides central management of enterprise-wide RFID initiatives; OATlogic, for configuring RFID-centric business processes; OATepc, for EPC number management; and OATmw, for filtering data, managing RF interference and centrally monitoring and administering a range of devices, including RFID readers, bar code scanners and label printers.

The selection of OATSystems software as part of its RFID deployment bundles stems from work HP carried out for its own RFID deployments (see Putting RFID Know-How to Work), which have used middleware from OATSystems, as well as software from Shipcom Wireless. HP also says it has worked with OATSystems for a number customers already preparing for wide-scale RFID rollouts.

As part of agreement between HP and OATSystems, the two companies will work jointly on specific customer implementations, as well as on integrating elements of OATSystems software with HP OpenView enterprise network management software. HP OpenView provides a cross-platform environment to control and measure a variety of other applications and IT services within a company network. “We have one customer in Europe set to deploy 3,400 readers across 37 sites using HP and OATSystems technology,” says Lanza.

HP’s RFID/IS builds on HP’s existing offerings by providing the services and software infrastructure to manage RFID deployments that have outgrown HP’s three earlier offerings, which the company launched in May (see HP Debuts RFID Services). The most basic of those three offerings is the RFID Discovery Service, which educates companies about RFID by bringing them into an HP RFID center. For the next level, HP’s RFID Adaptive Starter Kit supports pilot RFID deployments with a selection of suitable tags and readers, as well as middleware, guidance and training. HP’s RFID Readiness Assessment and Roadmap Planning service helps customers develop ways to connect the RFID deployments to their existing IT systems.

Under the terms of its agreement with BearingPoint, HP will provide server computers and RFID integration services to design and deploy the technology to retailers for which BearingPoint provides assessment, consulting and systems integration support, business process and change management services. The two companies will closely collaborate to implement RFID-enabled technology, including the development of joint testing facilities.

According to BearingPoint, the decision to focus the partnership in the retailer market stems from the strong potential in that sector. “So far in the retail market, most of the RFID work has been done by the retailers themselves. We have a vision of RFID that we believe can deliver a whole lot of value to the retail sector,” says John Cummings, a BearingPoint managing director responsible for systems integrator’s supply chain.

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