Australian companies will adopt RFID technology for supply chain and asset management if big-name corporations lead a top down revolution, according to industry observers.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been used in various small-scale internal operations in Australia but unlike in North America and Europe has yet to experience significant take-up. But with vendors Motorola, NEC and Logica indicating several influential domestic corporations are looking to launch RFID-based operations within the next year, this situation could change.
"We are starting to get traction; people are actually starting to consider it seriously now," NEC business development manager RFID solutions, Kelvin Slade, said. "People are putting dollars into installations. A few years ago they were just piloting.
"I'm not aware of any major rollouts to the scale of Wal-Mart in Australia. But NEC has a commercial pilot that we are just about to begin and it'll be probably the largest of its kind in Australia. So that is good news for the industry."
RFID technology should be widely adopted if household names in industries like manufacturing, logistics, resources, health and retail launch large-scale projects, Motorola director business development enterprise wireless and RFID, Simon Brown, said.
"There are some big brand names out there that have trials and pilots in place that they are getting good results from and there are a couple of production systems with very major companies that are exemplary in how they are doing it," he said.
Logica managing consultant for industry, distribution and transportation, Kevin Larnach, said Australian corporations had been reluctant to give RFID a chance.
"The people that could force this through, like Coles and Woolworths, are not interested in a mandate like Wal-Mart," he said. "Companies can only do it cooperatively and no one has really taken a step."
However, Larnach said Logica is also working with a large supply chain company now and saw potential if the right steps were taken.
"It is going to come down to a few key players in the supply chain," he said. "If they come up with something attractive, that is going to kick-start the whole thing. But without that we will struggle."
Another inhibiting factor has been the Australian Communication and Media Authority's (ACMA) RFID power limit of 1W, while much of the world uses 4W. Globally 900MHz RFID devices operate in frequency ranges from 860MHz to 950MHz.
Australia currently has allocations for RFID devices in the frequency range 918MHz to 926MHz. But when the technology was first introduced the ACMA expressed concerns about the impact 4W devices would have on GSM 900MHz mobile phone systems in an adjacent band below 915MHz.
As a result ACMA implemented a trial period in consultation with RFID industry group and non-profit organisation, GS1 Australia, which hopes for a resolution this year.
"We are almost in the final stages in getting a solution with the government," GS1 manager electronic product code, Praveen Kannan, said. "[When we do] we will be globally aligned with Europe, the US and Asia."