Extending RFID's Reach
RFID's initial applications have centred around inventory management, such as tracking shipping containers across the supply chain, and now many enterprises are exploring how to get additional benefit from those investments. Wholesale drug company HD Smith has used RFID on pallets for several years, plus individual RFID tags on narcotics bottles, "increasing the security of each product along the supply chain," says Rob Kashmer Jr, the company's vice president of IT. The firm expects state governments to soon require the individual tags on drug bottles for safety purposes. Kashmer's team aims to have a leg up when those RFID compliance requirements go into effect.
Denver law firm Kamlet Shepherd & Reichert is using RFID tags in a traditional inventory management approach, tracking movement of case files within the law office, and expects to expand the business benefits over time, says Technology Director Adam Yantorni. By adapting the firm's FileTrial software to cover other materials, such as furniture and computer equipment, Yantorni plans to build a general-purpose automated inventory management plan. The firm will also grab opportunities to integrate its RFID database with its document management software, to improve workflow.
Another established use of RFID is for security applications, such as door locks that read RFID-enabled badges, notes Rebecca Wettemann, a vice president at Nucleus Research. But oil giant BP is testing a new twist on that approach at its refineries and oil and gas platforms. BP personnel wear RFID-equipped security badges that broadcast their whereabouts each second to a tracking application, so safety managers can see where everyone is. The system also helps analyze fast-moving loads and alerts drivers if they are on a collision course, says Curt Smith, BP's application director.
RFID cost and deployment barriers are falling, notes Wettemann. "A few years ago the CIOs' questions were all about tag technology and costs. Now it's all about how do we evaluate the technology for specific uses," she says. Even if RFID doesn't turn out to be the right tactic approach for a current business need, it may be the right tactic down the line, she says.
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