RFID-ROI-SME Project Promises Big Help for Small Business

By Sebastiano Toffaletti and John Soldatos

Eight pilot deployments are designed to show how RFID can become a productivity tool during a time of financial recession, especially for companies that operate under constrained budgets.


Three months ago, a group of European companies launched a two-year project intended to showcase the potential benefits of radio frequency identification for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). Toward this goal, the project takes a practical approach that involves the organization, deployment, coordination and evaluation of eight RFID pilots in six European countries (Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom). Each pilot will be deployed by an SME RFID systems integrator for an SME end-user, and will be operational for a minimum of 12 months.

The project, known as RFID-ROI-SME launched an RFID initiative co-funded by the European Commission (EC) through its Policy Support Program (ICT-PSP) and coordinated by the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME). Its main goal is to boost and promote the adoption of RFID technology within European SMEs.

Sebastiano Toffaletti

At the same time, these pilots will stress both the economic and societal impact of RFID. In terms of economic impact, RFID-ROI-SME intends to show how the technology can become a productivity tool during a time of financial recession, particularly for SMEs that operate under constrained budgets. In terms of societal impact, the project will illustrate that RFID could contribute to improving products and services.

The eight pilots target different sectors and related RFID applications:

Logistics: Cablecommerce, a Bulgarian distributor of electric cables and related products, will deploy an RFID system at its warehouse. The goals include improving the management and planning of orders and materials, optimizing the use of cable spools and leftover cable, and tracking each spool’s location. Systems Balkan Services Ltd. will serve as the pilot’s systems integrator.

John Soldatos

E-Ticketing: In a pilot designed by systems integrator RFID-Specialisten, Dansk Ungdomsferie ApS (Danish Youth Holidays Ltd.), a Danish travel agency and tour operator, will store and manage individualized information regarding RFID tickets, in order to facilitate ticketing and provide value-added services to customers.

Apparel Retailing: RFID integrator SENSAP will help STAFF Jeans & Co., a Greek clothing retailer, extend its existing RFID infrastructure (established by SENSAP as part of the FP7 [Seventh Framework Programme] project ASPIRE), in order to automate processes across the supply chain, from factories in Bulgaria to warehouses and retail stores in Greece (click here to view a video describing the deployment).

Manufacturing: SENSAP will design and deploy an RFID pilot for Styl. S. Koskinidis, a manufacturer of printed boxes, promotional displays and packaging for food, beverages, games, pharmaceuticals and other consumer goods. This pilot will make use of RFID and other auto-identification technologies, in order to establish and maintain associations between source materials, production processes and end products, with a view toward controlling and auditing certain processes, as well as learning how they lead to specific product qualities.

Document Tracking and Archiving: Rete Servizi, an Italian provider of document archiving and management services, is carrying out a pilot that will focus on the use of RFID technology for efficient document tracking and archiving, including processes for tracing, searching and checking documents in and out. The solution is being deployed by systems integrator SATA Applicazione Tecnologie Avanzate,

Construction: Bridge 129 Safety and Security, an Italian provider of safety and security services and solutions, will employ an active and passive RFID solution designed by SATA, in order to monitor and enforce safety rules on construction sites.

Plastic-Film Production: Plásticos Industriales y Comerciales de Alfarrasí, a Spanish manufacturer of plastic bags, sheets and tarpaulins, will work with systems integrator Alu Group on a project involving the tracking of plastic products and their orders, the management of raw materials, and the reduction of energy consumption and waste.

Security Personnel: Sovereign Security, a U.K. provider of security services, will use mobile phones with Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology to manage security guards and track incidents. Hardware and software will be provided by Sero Solutions.

Following the pilots’ successful completion, the project will assess each RFID deployment’s return on investment (ROI) and other financial benefits, as well as any effect it might have on privacy, vis-à-vis the EC’s recommendations for the implementation of privacy- and data-protection principles in applications supported by RFID (see European Commission Issues RFID Privacy Recommendations). Following the evaluation, RFID-ROI-SME endeavors to publish and disseminate blueprints and best practices regarding RFID deployment for SMEs across various sectors.

In carrying out the above tasks, the consortium includes one research institution—namely, Athens Information Technology (AIT)—which will lead the evaluation task. AIT is also a contributor to the AspireRFID open-source RFID project, and will thus support those pilots by helping them leverage AspireRFID libraries for their deployment.

Furthermore, the consortium includes four national SME associations (in addition to UEAPME, the project coordinator): the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM), the Italian National Confederation of Crafts and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises—Milan Division (CNA), the Spanish Asociación, Empresarial del Sector TIC de la Comunitat Valenciana (ESTIC) and the United Kingdom IT Association (UKITA). All of the SME associations will actively engage in publishing and disseminating the project’s solutions, best practices and blueprints to their members, while also ensuring that requirements from SME communities are adequately addressed in the scope of the pilot deployments.

We believe that the successful conclusion of RFID-ROI-SME will substantially contribute toward enabling small and midsize enterprises to understand and fully leverage the benefits of radio frequency identification.

Sebastiano Toffaletti is the secretary general of PIN-SME (an association representing the interests of Europe’s information and communication technologies in the SME sector) and the coordinator of the RFID-ROI-SME project. John Soldatos, an associate professor at Athens Information Technology (AIT), is the initiative’s project quality manager, and will lead its efforts to assess the pilots’ technological, economic and privacy impacts.