Prepping for the growing strength of RFID deployments in the enterprise, IBM and Symbol Technologies announced new initiatives and products targeted at supply chain management solutions this week.
Big Blue unveiled an RFID privacy consulting practice for Global Services, an RFID starter kit that includes both strategic and operational best practices, and the very first IBM RFID printer.
The privacy practice will begin with a two-day consulting workshop that leverages IBM's work in privacy consulting over the past several years, according to Eric Gabrielson, director for Worldwide RFID Solutions at IBM.
Although most RFID deployments are buried deep within the supply chain system and do not directly touch the consumer, Gabrielson said IBM expects that as RFID use proliferates, item-level RFID tags in consumer products will bring with it concerns about consumer privacy.
"We might start to see RFID used sooner than you would expect by high-end vertical retailers to protect against potential knock offs," Gabrielson said.
As an example, the privacy practice will help retailers educate employees and consumers about the benefits of tags and discuss such policies as opt-in and opt-out use of tags on finished goods after they leave the retail store.
Best practices included in the starter kit, part of the IBM RFID Solution for the Consumer Driven Supply, offer templates for print, verify and ship, tuning and architecting readers and tag deployments to reduce RF interference and service-side practices such as project management.
The IBM Infoprint 6700 R40 is a multiprotocol, Gen 1, Class 1, Class 0 and Gen 2, RFID tag printer that uses an IBM Power processor to increase performance. The printer can identify unreliable RFID labels and mark them as faulty as well as send alerts through the network to update the location status of labeled products.
The Infoprint 6700 starts at US$3,025. Printers will be available in early September.
In related news, Symbol Technologies announced its work on the next generation of RFID tags, dubbed Gen 2 along with Royal Philips Electronics and IBM.
Symbol is starting an early adopter program for organizations that want to get a jump on deploying what is likely to become the single, international standard for RFID tags, according to Justin Hotard, director of market development at Symbol.
Symbol this week demonstrated interoperability between EPC Gen 2 tags and Class 0 and Class 1 Gen 1 tags.
According to Hotard, Gen 2 tags have a number of new capabilities to recommend it.
"ISO is looking at adopting [Gen 2] in Europe and Asia and this will reduce cost of developing solutions by creating a single platform," Hotard said.
A second major benefit to the next generation of tags is the inclusion in the standard of a dense reader mode. Up until now, if numerous readers in a confined location were broadcasting signals to tags simultaneously they interfered with one another. The dense reader mode standard will support deployments of 20 readers and more in a single location without interference.
Gen 2 tags will also include encryption on the chip so that only authorized users will know the contents of items.
Symbol also announced this week the next generation RFID reader, model DC600.
Perhaps to add a bit more confusion to an industry that is already filled with acronyms and terms with multiple meaning, Symbol calls its readers "portal systems" because they are literally mounted at dock doors.
The RC600 will include a multiprotocol reader, high-performance antennas and cables. The units are shipping now.