IBM Introduces New RFID Services

By Bob Violino

The company aims to help Wal-Mart's suppliers deploy RFID systems based on IBM middleware.


By Jonathan Collins

Sept. 15, 2003 – IBM today introduced an RFID service to help retailers and consumer packaged goods companies deploy RFID technology for advanced product tracking and inventory control. The company says it has the integration experience and well-established middleware applications to link RFID systems to existing enterprise software applications.

IBM’s Holland

“There are a lot of niche players in the market, and customers have been looking for a full technology provider,” says Faye Holland, worldwide RFID leader for IBM Global Services. “IBM has been supporting RFID for years, but now we are at a stage where we have a tried-and-tested robust solution.”

IBM’s RFID offering comprises consulting and implementation services, as well as specialized software. It has developed a three-phase approach. Phase one includes consulting and development of the business case for RFID. Although dependent on the scope a company’s plans, IBM estimates this will cost its customers from $200,000 to $500,000.

Phase two involves deploying a 12-week pilot. Pricing, again, depends on scope, but IBM estimates that phase two will cost less than $1 million. The final phase is the full rollout of the RFID system. Here, too, the cost is based on the size of the company and the extent of the implementation.

IBM believes its existing middleware and backend infrastructure—WebSphere Application Server, DB2 Information Integrator database, Tivoli Access Manager and WebSphere Portal Server—will serve as a platform for an RFID deployment. “These enterprise class applications have proven capability and can now be linked to understand data from tags and readers from a range of vendors,” says Holland.

IBM is teaming with Philips Semiconductors and Intermec for specific technologies and services. Holland says it will also partner with Alien Technology, Matrics, Retek, Trigo and Verisign to ensure it can offer a broad portfolio of RFID solutions.

Kimberly-Clark has hired IBM to help develop an end-to-end assessment of the specific costs and benefits in adopting Electronic Product Code technology for its products and business processes as well as integrating one of its key customers into the analysis. Mike O’Shea, director of corporate AutoID/RFID strategies and technology at Kimberly-Clark, says IBM brought a unique blend of business consulting and technology expertise to the planning.

IBM says its research division is working on a project with select customers to develop a high-level architecture for EPC technology, which should provide a road map for CPG and retail firms to enhance and expand their initial implementations.

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