Exciting Times for RFID in Latin America

There are many exciting projects taking place in the region, and they could impact the global adoption of radio frequency identification.
Published: December 8, 2011

When I was in college, I couldn’t wait to graduate and begin traveling the world. I felt that much of what I was learning in the classroom was a waste of time, and that I really wouldn’t be very educated until I got out into the world. I graduated in January 1984, and moved to Asia in September of that year. Since then, I have visited more than 30 countries. I still like to travel, and I’m still learning.

This year, I spoke at events in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. At each stop, I heard about some new, exciting deployments. One deployment, in particular, by Grupo Éxito, in Bogotá, Colombia, could have an impact on RFID adoption. The Colombian retailer opened a new electronics-only store, tagging every item in an effort to determine the benefits of supply chain visibility, and to ascertain if RFID-tracking could reduce supply chain theft (see Grupo Exito Launches Major Electronics Tagging Pilot).

This deployment is significant, because it is the first time, to my knowledge, that every item within an electronics store is being tagged. If the RFID system can improve supply chain efficiencies—Éxito reports that it has reduced the amount of time required to receive goods at the store from two hours or more down to only 20 minutes—as well as decrease supply chain shrinkage, other electronics retailers might be more likely to take a serious look at the technology.

In Medellín, Colombia, I visited the warehouse of Crystal Vestimundo, a fast-growing apparel retail chain that recently completed an in-store RFID pilot. The company is planning to move to the next phase of its pilot, and to track goods from its warehouse to stores (see Colombian Retailer Crystal Vestimundo Plans Second Item-Level RFID Pilot). I also visited a pharmacy owned by a company called Medicarte, that is using RFID to track drug packaging to ensure that it is not used to sell counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

In Brazil, I had the opportunity to visit the Hewlett-Packard Brasil printer-assembly plant, where the company is tagging millions of individual ink cartridges as part of one of the world’s largest item-level tagging projects. HP Brasil was the first RFID Journal Award winner for Best Implementation in 2007 (see Keeping Tabs on Printers).

We recently held our RFID Journal LIVE! Latin America (LatAm) 2011 event, where there were some excellent presentations made by Mexican retailers Liverpool and Carnaval. Their deployments are described in the following articles: Liverpool Achieves 100 Percent Case-Level Tagging and Carnaval Puts RFID Hangtags on Kids’ Clothing.

In addition, there were also great presentations made by Steelcase, which developed an innovative RFID application to help customers manage their office-furniture inventory; Morgan Thermal Ceramics, an Augusta, Ga.-based firm that designs, manufactures and installs a broad range of thermal-insulation products that significantly reduce energy consumption and emissions in a variety of high-temperature processing applications, which is employing RFID to track work-in-process at its Mexico plant; and Cotemar, a Mexican oil-field services company that is utilizing active RFID to track workers on oil platforms, in order to ensure their safety.

There are many other exciting projects going on in the region as well, which means I will probably be traveling a lot to South and Central America over the next few years.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.