RFID Networking in Heathrow Part 2

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

In my previous article, I reviewed what had been presented on the first day of the RFID Network Forum. As I said then, I would also review the presentations made on the second day of the Forum. When you review all the topics covered, the thing that strikes you is the incredible variety from use in Libraries and Road Tolls through Logistics, Retail and Manufacturing to advances in the technology. Therefore to help you understand the key points I have broken down this article into a number of headings:

  • General Topics
  • Government—Healthcare, Libraries and Road Tolls
  • Logistics
  • Manufacturing—Aerospace, CPG, Oil and Gas, and Construction
  • Retail
  • Technology


Mark Gillott of GS1 UK opened the day with a talk giving an introduction to RFID and to EPCGlobal for those attendees who had come for the first time.

Nick Riley of the Logistics Institute, University of Hull looked at ways that RFID could improve business. One of the key points that he covered was to look at the Barriers to RFID Adoption. He saw that the prime one was a lack of a Business Case. Listening to some of the questions from the audience over the 2 days it became very apparent that IT people were still concerned about the price of tags rather than what is the business problem, how can I solve it, how much will that solution costs and how much will it save the company. Riley also talked about 2 key “Lacks” adding to the barriers; namely a Lack of Suitable Business Management System and a Lack of Confidence. The former is all about how to use BI on the data collected by the readers at the edge of the enterprise to improve decision making not only at the centre but also at the edge itself. The final barrier Riley identified was standardisation across Supply Chains, as organisations look to gain visibility outside of their own boundaries then standardisation of data definitions and formats becomes more important to make the job easier. Even with all these barriers, Riley quoted some pretty convincing figures from Geoff Berry of Merlin 360. Barry saw that the use of RFID in the supply chain generated the following Cost Saving in a Supply Chain:

  • 80% time saved on data capture
  • 10–15% improvements at each supplier
  • Minimised labelling cost
  • Inventory and wastage reduction 10–15%

Newham College of Further Education is one of the largest and most diverse providers of further education and training in London and England as a whole, with 30,000 student enrolments per annum. The College has the four Centres of Vocation Excellence (CoVE’s), the latest being the Centre of Vocational Excellence in IT & Networking. Pallavi Malhortai quoted from their mission statement, whose sentiments I absolutely agree with; “RFID is going to hit the UK market like a storm and we want to be ready and prepared for this storm. The technology employed in RFID is vast and varied and the businesses in Britain have a lot of learning to do”.

Newham College are setting-up an RFID centre in the heart of Olympic city. There is no other centre available more centrally for city businesses. They will also provide a website, where businesses can book their training sessions through the website. They will offer training for all levels of RFID, ranging from introduction to advanced. With this they have joined up with RFID4U, who have been a pioneer in RFID training in vendor neutral and vendor authorized RFID learning solutions since 2002. This looks an admirable new RFID centre of excellence linked to academia.



Over the last year a number of articles in the press and from analysts have been written on the use of RFID in Healthcare. Dr. Maureen Baker, the NHS National Clinical Safety Officer looked at the issue of safety in IT in the NHS. After the NPSA Report of 2004 concluded that “NPfIT is not addressing safety in a structured, pro-active manner as other safety critical industries would”, a series of actions have occurred from the appointment of a National Security Officer, through adoption of principles of IEC 61508, to the implementation of Clinical Safety Management Systems. Dr Baker then spoke at what was currently being looked at. In terms of safer IT Products, she identified the following points:

  • Clinical risk management system administered through Clinical Safety Group
  • Certificate of Authority to Release (CATR)
  • Safety incident management process.

Dr Baker saw that considerable movement had occurred from a ‘standing start’ 2 years ago, with major work streams underway. However it was still early days, but nevertheless, the NHS was probably world leading in terms of work on safety in Health IT.

Chris Ranger, Head of Safer Practice NPSA and Project Lead for NHS Connecting for Health, followed Dr Baker, looking at patient safety and the National IT Programme for the NHS. Ranger looked at why patient safety is an issue and how technology, such as RFID, can help. Patient safety is a global issue. Between Feb 06 and Jan 07 more than 24,000 reports were received by the NHS of patients mismatched with care and, of these, nearly 3,000 related to wristbands and their use. Human Factors experts say people will always make errors. Therefore there is a need for effective NHS systems to protect patients and support staff in care giving, both manual and technological, and this is where RFID can have a role. Two NPSA solutions currently being pursued by the NHS CFH Safety Team are the safer identification of patients and the management of blood products. Ranger concluded that having good systems in place is vital for patient safety and reduces pressure on NHS staff and that RFID and other technologies have a key role in getting appropriate systems in place.

David Morgan of the Heart of England NHS Trust presented at the RFID Smart Labels Conference in September 2006 and this time gave a catch up on the extensive RFID roll out in the hospital. Patients arriving in the ward are given wristbands with RFID tags, which are linked to an electronic patient record. Surgeons scan the tags and verify identity using a digital photograph of the patient stored on their electronic patient record. The tag is also used to record pre-operative checking and making sure that risk assessment has been done before the patient enters theatre. The system links into an electronic operating list, which replaces the paper one previously used. When patients are ready for surgery and have been properly checked, their respective indicator on the list goes green. The operating list is accessible by PDA and over the hospital intranet.

Permits and Smartcards

Edwin Smith & Riaan Barnard, of the RFID Centre, looked at the use of RFID in vehicle permits. Traditional vehicle permits and parking management systems are largely paper based and require significant administration, manual checks and interventions for the system to operate successfully. In addition it is expensive to maintain, inefficient, inaccurate, open to fraud and cumbersome to use from the motorist’s perspective.

Phil Cox, the Chair of the Forum for Citizen Cards in Wales looked at the state of citizen cards in the UK. It is a fragmented approach with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland more advanced than England. However, there are few functions and everything is non-standard. The jewel looks to be concessionary travel across the whole of UK by possibly the end of 2008. The National SmartCard Project is led and now ‘owned’ by Bracknell Forest. This is based on what is known as an “Edge card” which is used for libraries and leisure, as well as giving local retail discounts (5–20%). A knowledgebase has been created that is now administered by SmartCard National Forum.

Who wants citizen cards? Well, Local Authorities do, so they can replace a multitude of disparate tokens, such as bar coded library cards, Magstripe leisure cards and Magstripe payment cards. Transport Authorities are also interested so that they can properly account for the concessionary travel claimed by transport operators. The other organisations interested are small local businesses, who see it as way of having local loyalty schemes to counter those from the big supermarket chains. What is unsure is whether you and I, as the general public, want one but maybe with the success of the Oyster Card in London, this could well change.

John Stout of TranSys gave a review of what is one of the success stories of smartcards in the UK, namely Oyster Cards in London. The Oyster Card system uses passive RFID short range tags. The business requirements mean that there is a real need for very good card reader performance on gates (250ms response). A lot of business rule processing takes place in the gate device in this time. The devices / card readers can operate for 7 days without communicating to the infrastructure network. National Rail in London has been Oyster’s “black hole”. Transport for London, Department of Transport and National Rail are now working on this. For the future, expect to see Oyster as an application on other card schemes and media types.


Martin Palmer, the Strategic Manager, Transformation & Resources for Essex County Council Libraries, looked at use of RFID in libraries. Most libraries are very labour-intensive with around 50% of total expenditure on staff. Of this, 20–25% is spent on counter duties. So, the routine process of lending and returning items accounts for >10% of total expenditure. Most libraries adopt RFID for self service. Essex has some 35 libraries RFID’d. The business case for RFID was based on a mix of:

  • Making Gershon efficiencies (2.5% per year)
  • Making better use of staff time
  • Extending opening hours
  • Needing fewer staff—saved by natural wastage


Kempton Cannons of Savi Technology looked at the use of RFID in Defence. Much has been written about the use of RFID by DoD from 1994 when the first DoD RFID procurement contract was awarded to build real-time wireless monitoring to DoD RFID / EPC Policy for all services and suppliers issued in 2004. Other Governments and Defence suppliers have implemented technology in support of specific conflicts, mandates and force goals such as the UK MoD Operation Telic, NATO’s force goal and the need for interoperability in Afghanistan. In all cases, the high tempo and scope of operations has lead to increased demand for portable infrastructure. What I had not been aware of until Cannons’ presentation was that there is now a global interoperable network of active RFID tags and readers from not only the US DoD but also the UK, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and NATO who have active consignment tracking implementations in place. This is the main focus area in defence.

Waste Management

Humberto Moran of Open Source Innovation Ltd looked at how RFID can be used to manage the waste management supply chain. Moran talked initially about the green side of RFID energy saving from supply chain efficiencies to raw material savings and conservation (covering control of illegal logging, control of endangered species, research on animal behaviour) to control of livestock diseases—livestock account for a big percentage of greenhouse gas emissions! He concluded with these comments: A worldwide RFID deployment has the potential to reduce up to 5.96% of greenhouse-gas emissions (In Kyoto’s carbon markets, this amounts to ≅U$ 10 billion.); and RFID-driven supply chain efficiencies have the potential to reduce other environmental damage by an estimate 5.4%.


Steve Quigley of TNT looked at the global use of RFID within the company. TNT believes there are plenty of areas where RFID can prove its value by reducing costs and increasing efficiency within its operations. TNT Express is expanding an ongoing RFID trial that tags and tracks laptops from a manufacturing plant in China to a distribution centre in Germany. Having completed the trial’s first phase, which showed that RFID technology could be used reliably, TNT has embarked on the second phase, which will share data collected across its RFID-enabled supply chain, as well as add another PC manufacturer’s shipments to the trial. In a separate RFID trial with one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medical diagnostic products, TNT is testing an UHF RFID network using active tags to track and monitor the temperature of shipments of medical chemical reagents from a TNT-managed regional distribution centre in Singapore to two strategic distribution points—one in Bangkok, the other in Shanghai. The trial builds on experience gained by TNT in a similar trial run last year between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo, Norway, and will focus on the potential benefits of tracking shipments for both temperature control and replenishment requirements.

INFORM specialises in IT systems for the optimized planning and control of business processes. They are based on decision support technologies including Operations Research and Fuzzy Logic. David Hillis, their UK Manager, described how they are using RFID to provide real-time data for visibility control. The talk was illustrated using examples from Man Trucks and BMW, but to my mind the most interesting case study was the one for Swiss Post, which showed how the system can track rail trucks moving at 40km/hour. The solution covers parcel distribution and containers distributed by train or truck. The difference between Inform’s solution and many others that I have seen is the realisation of the importance of providing information not only at the centre to management but also at the edge.

Mark Gillott of GS1UK looked at why global standards are essential if the promise of RFID is to come true in transport and logistics. He reviewed the progress EPCglobal has made over the past three years in developing RFID standards. He then illustrated his talk with some case studies showing how RFID and EPCglobal are being adopted in transport and logistics throughout the world. He concluded by discussing what the future holds and why transport and logistics operators must get involved today.

Chris Manning of Printronix looked at the use of RFID for safety provision. Aker Yards has started to use a safety tracking system based on radio frequency identification (RFID) at it’s Turku shipyard. The RFID system is used for safety monitoring of 5,000 craftsmen working on cruise ship construction. Each employee has an RFID tag on their helmet which can be read from 5 meters distance. The ship floating by the outfitting quay has several entry bridges on which employees are moving in and out. Any time employees enter or exit the ship the system keeps track of their status with RFID readers situated on the entry bridges. This way the fire and security officials have real time information on head count and are able to size up the number of means of escape. The tracking information is particularly important in the case of an evacuation, in order to learn quickly that everybody has escaped from the vessel. Unlike many access control reader or paper based systems the Aker Yards safety monitoring system is entirely effortless for the employees, who often have their hands full of fitting material and tools while entering the ship. The RFID system was built by Vilant Systems together with Solita Oy. The tags are encoded by the Printronix SL5000MP2 Gen2 certified solution. The system has won the Symbol 2006 EMEA Mobility award.

The ConstructRFID partnership (Holloway Consulting [Disclaimer: I am CEO of Holloway Consulting], Melior Solutions and Information Drivers) are new kids on the block. They gave a presentation based around a demonstration system they are building on a concept called Agile Delivery. The idea is that once a truck leaves a depot to a customer very little can be changed. The ConstructRFID idea is to change the truck into a moveable warehouse. This involves linking CRM systems with Logistics systems and RFID with In-Cab Systems and GPS. They gave what might be a very apt scenario this summer, after the French election, of handling a French strike at Calais! Their solution is based on a Microsoft platform which should appeal to a cost conscious industry.


Aerospace & Airlines

Andrew Price of IATA used the business cases developed by IATA for several international airlines to show how to justify RFID. Price reviewed the business cases for baggage management and in-flight applications and discussed the challenges that face RFID projects for airlines.

Yemmi Agbebi, Head of Business Development at Manchester Airports Group, described the trial of RFID at the airport. The business case was built around:

  • Monitoring passenger behaviour
  • Offering Location Based Services
  • Measuring Process efficiency
  • Security: PAX Track & Trace

This approach showed that one of the keys to Airport management is to get retailers information on passenger movements. This was a great test of RFID and Agbedi’s skill in making the project succeed has been recognised as I understand he has been asked to head up Airport RFID for SITA.

Thomas Kelepouris of Cambridge Auto-ID Lab looked at removing barriers to RFID adoption in civil aviation. This talk was based on the research programme being carried out by the lab. There are 6 key themes varying from track and trace through security to lifecycle data management. 5 barriers have been identified. The first of these is ROI; an ROI tool based on NPV, Decision-tree, Monte Carlo, Real Options has been developed. The second barrier is process improvements. Here work has been done on improving logistics and maintenance processes among others. The third barrier is standardisation. This is about high memory tags and identifier definition. The fourth barrier was the infrastructure for pilots. The next research areas are services/support engineering and Airport operations.

Oil and Gas

The Oil and Gas industry has been at the forefront of using RFID in innovate ways to solve business issues. Frank Wehus of WTEK AS described an employee tracking solution as used by Ekofisk in the North Sea. Terms such as “access control”, “security”, “safety” and “evacuation system” have a very different meaning when it is not just down to whether or not a worker is actually on the platform, but also determining his exact location!

Kevin Boyd of Arnlea looked at how to improve the integrity of asset-related data. He discussed how to streamline field service, manufacturing, inventory control and logistics operations. Boyd brought to his audience the need to prove compliance with statutory legislation. The oil and gas industry needs to have tight control field assets and inventory in harsh/hazardous areas. He showed how an RFID based solution can provide the means to automate maintenance and inspection operations.


The ConstructRFID Partnership (Holloway Consulting [Disclaimer: I am CEO of Holloway Consulting], Melior Solutions and Information Drivers) gave an innovative look at how RFID could be used to manage a construction site. Their “canned demonstration” built on GlobeRanger’s iMotion showed not only the way RFID could control the entry of personnel, both employees and sub-contractors but also the arrival of supplies such as bricks. They showed how edge processing could use integration to enterprise data to verify deliveries and also of expected personnel on site. ConstructRFID also showed the way RFID can be used to monitor the use of equipment such as dumper trucks so that only authorised people could use the equipment. An additional Health and Safety feature demonstrated was the monitoring of safety equipment and other assets for maintenance purposes. The simulation facility of GlobeRanger was compelling part of this proposition.


Frank Bell of Coors Brewers Ltd discussed how RFID can be implemented successfully as part of a wider solution using the Coors rollout of the technology. He discuss the challenges that the RFID project faced and the support that is needed to overcome them.

Mark Gillott of GS1UK looked at why global standards are essential if the promise of RFID is to come true in retail and CPG supply chains. He reviewed the progress EPCglobal has made over the past three years in developing RFID standards. He then illustrated his talk with some case studies showing how RFID and EPCglobal are being adopted in retail and CPG supply chains throughout the world. He concluded by discussing what the future holds and why retailers and CPG manufacturers must get involved today.

Peter Lai of NGF Europe Limited discussed how using RFID has reduced the number of mis-reads with barcodes in the factory environment. NGF can guarantee 100% product validation for customers that was impossible before without RFID. Lai concluded by discussing the difficulties that NGF Europe experienced as they trialed a range of products from different vendors.


Pete Moylan of Paxar looked at how you could improve your stock availability and drive sales. He looked at how the use of RFID would provide correct critical stock inaccuracies which your staff do not have time to check. He then showed how to drive additional sales through an interactive customer experience.

No RFID conference seems to be complete without a speaker from Marks and Spencers. James Stafford, Head of RFID, is a good speaker and has a great story to tell about the 2 different successful trials of RFID by M&S. More information is now given about the supply chain process extension of the clothing label trial. The business case was made on the basis of the time saving on shop stock checking. The case has been further extended as the tag gets used further down the supply chain. The key to M&S is the projects are made on an exceptional business case not on the technology.


Peter Ward of Wavetrend gave 2 talks. The first of these looked at the Active market and illustrated how active technology was being used. To position Active technology Ward looked at the IBM RFID position in markets, showing that in 5 of their target areas Active was the chosen tag technology. A video was shown illustrating the latest press release from Wavetrend on the use of their tag by BMW Mini in the USA to provide driver information. The second case study was based on the work of ISIS, a small UK company that dominates the world market for the use of RFID in museums and art galleries (150+ installations around the world). The ISIS solution uses the Wavetrend tag in conjunction with motion sensors to manage the movement of exhibits. The final case study was for BT’s internal supply chain, where Wavetrend have partnered with RadiantWave. In this project the Wavetrend tags are applied to the roll cages. This solution went live in November 2006 for cable drums management and is being extended to pallet trucks, cages and tools. Where businesses rely on knowing where their assets are, Ward explained that a business case for active technology could be made. In Peter Ward’s second talk he gave further illustrations of where Active technology is being used successfully. The two main examples came from Advanced Positioning Systems with their solution for people tracking which has been used in the Netherlands for prisoner tracking and TMS2 with their solution for vehicle tracking management.

Mike Cochran of Crown Technology looked at the interference obstacles presented by metal. He showed how now these do not stop organisations from adopting RFID tracking technology. He discussed the basic guidelines for getting RFID to work on difficult products and gave an update on successful, item level trials of using UHF RFID tags on metal packaging.

Peter Ball of Pera described multimodal RFID tags that can be used to track items across a global supply chain. He then went on to expand on the Collaborative R&D competition which is part of the DTI-led Technology Programme. The talk conclude with some insight gained into how the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will influence RFID development in Europe.