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RFID and Blockchain Bring Shared Visibility to Supply Chain

A year-long proof-of-concept, held by Auburn University's RFID Lab with global brands and retailers, finds that data can be shared on an immutable ledger, enabling the deployment of supply chain tracking with EPC UHF RFID.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 02, 2020

Auburn University's RFID Lab has completed a proof-of-concept (POC) that it says proves blockchain can bring visibility to RFID-based data across a supply chain. The Chain Integration Project (CHIP) Initiative took place throughout the past year, tracking goods for five participating companies: three brands and two retailers. The result was that the blockchain network enabled these businesses to automatically share data regarding the flow of goods through the shared supply chain.

Based on those results, says Justin Patton, the RFID Lab's director, the use of blockchain with RFID technology could bring an end to claims related to missing goods in the supply chain, while improving supply chain efficiency. It could also create an accessible history of every RFID-tagged item from manufacturer to store. The lab has released a white paper describing the results.

Justin Patton
Participants in the proof-of-concept were brands Nike, PVH Corp. and Herman Kay, as well as retailers Kohl's and Macy's. The companies collected and shared item-level data streams from RFID tag reads throughout 2019. They used software and hardware support from Avery Dennison, IBM, Mojix and SML.

Standards organization GS1 and management-consulting firm Collaboration LLC helped manage the project. The CHIP POC consisted of three blockchain channels between point of source and store.

The RFID Lab's POC follows Project Zipper, its 12-month pilot created to test the value RFID brings to the retail supply chain (see Project Zipper Finds Order Accuracy Jumps to Nearly 100 Percent With RFID). That makes the CHIP POC the second in a three-step process that Patton calls "crawl, walk, run," in which RFID management of supply chains could improve efficiency and eliminate waste. The third step, beginning now, will pilot blockchain data in real-world supply chain environments.

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