IBM Announces 3 New RFID Offerings

IBM today made three announcements relating to RFID: the launch of a Privacy Consulting Practice, the introduction of an RFID-enabled printer, and the release of software "starter kits."
Published: June 14, 2005

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 14, 2005—IBM today made three announcements relating to RFID: the launch of a Privacy Consulting Practice, the introduction of an RFID-enabled printer, and the release of software “starter kits.” Big Blue in September of last year made a five-year $250 million commitment to Sensors & Actuators, the division of which RFID is a leading component.

The Privacy Consulting Practice is targeted at clients deploying RFID to help them develop best-practice privacy policies and procedures. IBM, which has had an internal privacy practice since 1998, decided to offer the privacy consulting to RFID clients because of both a perceived need in the marketplace and an interest from existing clients. On offer is a two-day consulting workshop as well as more involved privacy services that can scale according to a client’s need. With the new practice, Director of Worldwide RFID Products Eric Gabrielson told RFID Update, IBM will now offer customers consulting that will result in “well-thought through and well-organized privacy policy.”

IBM’s new printer, dubbed Infoprint 6700 R40, is an RFID-capable bar code printer. It has a large ribbon capacity which allows it greater output volumes while requiring less user intervention. By allowing RFID-tag printing capabilities to be added later, the R40 targets both companies already equipped with RFID and those that may not yet have implemented RFID but plan to do so in coming years. Its entry level price is just over $3,000; the RFID-enabled version costs about $5,500. Doug Oathout of IBM Printers Systems Division told RFID Update that a special feature of the printer is its integrated IBM technology. Inside, the printer uses an IBM POWER microprocessor which allows it to perform some operations as much as 60% faster than previous models. From a software perspective, the printer can integrate with IBM’s RFID middleware WebSphere, offering visibility throughout the supply chain all the way to the point where a tag begins its lifecycle at the printer. It also error-checks RFID tags as they are printed, disposing of those that are not functional to ensure tag reliability.

The final component of today’s announcement, the Starter Kits, are best-practice extensions to the WebSphere software developed through IBM’s involvement in 50+ RFID deployments. They are called “starter kits” because they allow consumer goods and retailing companies to quickly pinpoint how to use RFID to reduce both out-of-stocks and inventory, then can be further extended or tailored to an enterprise’s particular needs.

IBM’s announcement today marks a big one for the company. Not only does it reaffirm the company’s commitment to RFID technology, stated so clearly last September, it also reveals the company’s strategy for gaining market share. Each of the three components correspond to one piece of the complete package IBM intends to offer: services (the privacy consulting practice), hardware (the printer), and software (the starter kits). It is clear that IBM wants to be able to offer large clients an entire end-to-end RFID solution. In such a fragmented, nascent market, it will be interesting to see if IBM can succeed.

Read the press release from IBM