RFID in Bogotá

A test facility developed by GS1 Colombia has put Bogotá on the RFID map.
Published: September 18, 2007

This week, I was invited to speak at an event in Bogotá, Colombia, organized by LOGyCA, a logistics services company affiliated with GS1 Colombia. While there, I visited a test center built by GS1 Colombia. Now, you might not think of Bogotá as the epicenter of the radio frequency identification industry, but the test center is extremely impressive, and it’s helping move adoption forward in Latin America.

GS1 Colombia’s test facility is located in a large building next to the GS1 Colombia office, not far from the airport. The test center boasts a fully outfitted supermarket, in which every item is tagged, as well as a convenience store and tienda (a small local store). There is also a simulated warehouse and back-of-store environment. Only a handful of facilities in the world can match this one—in fact, it was certified by EPCglobal as an official test center.

In the supermarket area, GS1 Colombia demonstrates how smart shelves can be used to track the inventory of individual items, from cereal boxes to cans of beer. A smart shopping cart with a terminal displays information about the items placed in the cart. A shopper can send the total for all purchases to a point-of-sale terminal, and check out by presenting a credit card and confirming the purchase.

GS1 Colombia’s María del Mar Hermida demonstrates a self-checkout system at the Bogotá test center.

None of this is new, but I saw a steady stream of visitors going through the facility, learning about RFID in a facility that is about as close to the real world as you can get without installing the technology in an actual store. During my presentation, I asked how many people were skeptical that RFID could deliver a lot of value to their company. Only one hand went up. I then asked how many thought it would transform their company. About two-thirds of the audience raised their hands that time.

The company’s investment in the demonstration and testing facility is clearly paying off. People don’t doubt that RFID works, that it can deliver value and that EPC standards will enable them to use RFID to cut costs across the supply chain.

A test portal inside the warehouse area of GS1 Colombia’s facility.

GS1 has supported a number of RFID pilots. One involves Almacenes Exito, the largest Colombian retailer, and Compania de Galletas Noel, a supplier of cookies and crackers. Successful pilots help drive adoption, but some companies would never get to the pilot stage without seeing the technology in action at facilities such as the one in Bogotá. After all, seeing is believing.