RFID Live Europe – a personal view

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Holloway Angle

I went to attend the pre-conference day on the 6th of November in Amsterdam and in particular to meet Subdir Hasbe of Microsoft who was giving the keynote on the Wednesday. I also met with Giovani Grieco, the Marketing Director of Caen, and Roby Peeters of Intelleflex.

The first pre-conference piece I sat in was the AIM1 Auto-ID Seminar and the keynote given by Trevor Pierce. Pierce made some interesting comments concerning the results of the failures of UHF tags, in particular he saw a spurt of interest in barcodes and at item level for certain goods the use of Active Tags, particularly those systems associated with WiFi. He said that UHF was here to stay but is in a mess (Have to agree with this—thanks EPCglobal for making it so!). This mess would only be sorted out once there was a better idea of costs and sustained growth performance in conjunction with the alleviation of the privacy and security issues. HF is better for security and I would agree with this. Pierce saw the current trend around RFID Networks as both an opportunity for open supply chain network support across multiple organisations and national boundaries, and a threat in terms of IP and security. Pierce concluded with the view that continual overhype both from end users and vendors was having a serious impact on investment into RFID start-ups.

The 2nd AIM talk was from Pim van Loosbroek who looked at developments in the field of bar codes, particularly stressing data matrix developments. The morning rounded off with a talk by Eldur Walk of Feig and chair of AIM RFID Experts Group who gave a fairly dry talk about the work of the group. Their objectives are to help move RFID adoption forward; look at current RFID issues; and propose and contribute to standards. One interesting factoid that came up in his talk that there were currently 256 RFID standards! For those of you who read my interview with Paul Charteris on IT-Analysis, you will remember he raised the issue of IPR. Well so did Walk, he saw IPR issues as burden to the development of standards leading to an increase in costs for the market and reduced take-up of RFID to solve business problems.

RFID Live saw Microsoft launch their RFID Middleware in EMEA. Subdir Hasbe gave the keynote, which described the solution and costing scenario. He was supported by Bernd Rössler, who described the project at Europool, which was part of the beta programme for BizTalk Server 2006 R2—a project I know well as I was the European link for Microsoft when I worked for them. Hasbe also talked about the implementation at Blue C Sushi—the key important fact about this case study, which, besides Microsoft, involved Intermec and a small local SI in the US, is how much the whole project cost—$30,000! This shows the effect of Microsoft’s entry into the middleware market.

In the afternoon, I attended the open talk of the RFID in the Cold Chain preconference seminar. The scene setter was given by the moderator for the afternoon, Bill Hardgrave of the University of Arkansas and director of the RFID Center there. The University is very close to the HQ of Wal-Mart apparently. The Center carries out investigations into the business value and implications of RF and is a founding member of the Global RF Laboratory Alliance. Hardgrave went to give a fairly academic and technical overview of what is involved in the use of RFID in the Cold Chain. I hadn’t realised the different sort of indicators and records that are available:

  • Time: temperature indicators are visual, but with no history log and cheap.
  • Strip Chart recorders produce visual output strips, but have no history log.
  • Data loggers provide a digital history.
  • Transponder networks are used to monitor environments and produce alerts.

The key fact to remember is that not only do you want to know that what the product is (Authentication/Identity), but also its exact location (Location) and now also its condition (Environmental). Hardgrave concluded his talk by describing some of the Center’s experience in the Cold Chain test that they have carried.

I dropped into a session of the RFID Journal University and heard Giovani Grieco, the Marketing Director of Caen, give a really good introduction to reader technology. I learnt things that I thought I knew about! After his talk, I meet with Grieco and talked about his view of the current European market. Like me, he finds it very fluctuating. They are run off their feat, but are still waiting for the big uptake. This means they are keeping their team small and agile. Always useful to get the view of one of the most successful of the European reader vendors.

I last met Roby Peeters and the beginning of this year at the RFID ROI Summit in London when he was working for Ubisense. Peeters is now working for a vendor who sells passive tags with a battery. I am interested—this seems an anomaly! I have arranged to know more and will share what I find out.

Was this a successful conference? Well, it is hard to tell as I was only able to attend the first day with all the preconference activities. The RFID Journal University session was full—there was quite a large Korean and Chinese contingent present. The RFID in the Cold Chain session was well attended. I know that a number of European RFID conferences are not taking place this year due to a lack of attendees.

[1] AIM is the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility. They are a global trade organisation comprising of providers of components, networks, systems and services that manage the collection and integration of data with information management systems. The Group is global with regional groups in America, EMEA, Japan, China and Korea.