Archive for the ‘RFID’ Category

A One-Two Punch for RFID at Wal Mart

The “one” in the one-two punch was the restructuring that Sam’s Club did this Janurary with regards to its pallet, case, and item level tagging initiatives within their supply chain.  Here are the highlights:

  • Deadlines for compliance were dramatically extended
  • Fines were reduced to 4% of their previous level
  • Case level tagging requirements, which were originally proposed to be in-place by Oct 31, 2009 are now optional

Now comes the other punch to RFID implementation within Sam’s Club and Wal Mart… Earlier this week, RFID Update and StoreFront BackTalk released stories about Procter & Gamble’s decision to end its program to tag promotional displays with RFID to ensure they were placed on store floors at appropriate times.  

Most of the analyis surrounding the story speculates that it was the people and the processses that failed, not the technology.  While this many very well be true, I personally see it as another large step back for RFID.   I agree that the technology is fundamentally sound – especially with improvements made over the last couple of years with regards to standards, security, and scalability.  I even think that the technology will continue to get better over time.

However, lack of acceptance and breakdowns in processes highlight larger business issues have to be solved before we will see wide spread adoption of RFID.  Technology alone is not good enough.  

I believe if we can’t successfully tag promotional displays, we are a *long* way off from realizing RFID’s “full” potential, such as smart shelves with item-level tagging.

Here are some other great RFID posts on WiFiJedi.com

Lastly, one of my blog readers reached out and asked if I could promote one of his events.  The information is below: 

RFID in Healthcare Consortium Presentation:

“Challenges & Rewards of Wireless Technology in Health Care”

Washington, DC March 10 & 11, 2009-02-18

New Wireless Standard – IEEE 1902.1

Ruby?

Ruby?

Ruby?  No, RuBee.  The new IEEE Standard for wireless visibility networks.  RuBee is an alternative to other RFID technologies such as UHF, HF, etc.  How does it compare to these other technologies?  The new IEEE standard, IEEE 1902.1, is intended for providing low bandwidth where low cost, high tag count, and long battery life are requirements. RuBee operates below 450 Khz and is especially effective in harsh environments such as around metal and water.  These have traditionally been problem areas with other RFID products.

However, RuBee only provides speeds of 300 to 9600 baud, which might present an issue for many applications.  RuBee has a respectable range of 10 to 50 feet and is expected to be implemented in hospital environments, and high security government facilities.

There seem to be many competing technologies to RuBee.  Recently, there have been many advances to passive-UHF RFID tags.  The read ranges now quite frankly shock me.  There also have been ongoing improvements in the amount of data stored in UHF tags as well as the security of tag.  Active RFID & RTLS have also been gaining momentum.  In that sense, I really think it is an uphill battle for any new technology where there are existing technologies that already serve the market place. At the end of the day, I think that IEEE approving a new standard will go a long way to commercializing the product and encouraging more wide spread adoption.

What do you think?  Is RuBee going to be widely used and accepted?  In what industries?  In what applications?  How is it going to be better and/or different than exisiting RFID technologies. Post what you think in the comment section below.

A Step Back for RFID?

In my first blog post ever (beside my introduction), I spoke about Sam’s Club requirements regarding pallet, case, and item level RFID tagging for their suppliers.  Sam’s Club issued a letter in January 2008 with an aggressive schedule to require item level tagging by Oct. 2010.

However, Sam’s Club recently published a new letter to its suppliers dated Jan 15th, 2009.  At a first glance, the updated letter seems to be a step backward for RFID adoption:

  • Sam’s Club is reducing the fine for each pallet that arrives at its DeSoto, TX plant without an RFID tag from $3 to 12 cents per pallet (4% of the previous fine)
  • The updated letter stated that case level tagging is now optional (Jan 2008 letter mandated case level tagging by 10/31/2009)
  • The updated letter stated that the time line for item level tagging is now TBD (Jan 2008 letter mandated item level tagging my 10/31/2010)

The Sam’s Club initiative and DoD mandates for RFID tagging were cornerstones of RFID adoption.  What do you think of these new requirements?

Upon closer inspection, it doesn’t seem all bad:

  • Sam’s Club is established a new Supplier Council to help organizations understand the costs and benefits associated with pallet, case, and item level tagging
  • Sam’s Club has several RFID initiatives in development to include RFID enables point of sale (POS) systems
  • Case level tagging was made optional because the company feels that sellable unit (item level) tagging provides more benefit

In a way, I believe that Wal Mart and Sam’s Club are actually trying to speed up the adoption of RFID by ensuring their suppliers understand the costs vs. benefits as well push straight for item level tagging in the foreseeable future.  The letter acknowledges that suppliers will need 12 to 18 months to prepare for sellable unit tagging and that an appropriate time line would be developed.

If you want to read more, view the story at RFID Update.   Sound off and let me know what you think in the comments!

California Bill Outlaws RFID Skimming

Here is another RFID story that I read awhile ago and my commentary:

California – home of sunshine, celebrities, and trailblazing legislation.  At the end of January 2008, the California Senate voted 36 to 3 to approve Senate Bill 31 (SB 31), which outlaws skimming of personal information via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

A copy of the bill can be found here.

With the ever increasing use of RFID in applications such as credit cards, passports, and security badges, it seems to make sense to outlaw skimming personal information.  There are some obvious challenges in such legislation such as “would such a law be enforceable?” and “how would the law be enforced?”

While reading the actual bill, I found two things particularly interesting: 1) the penalties for violating the law were lower than I anticipated and 2) the law has numerous exceptions, one of which applies to security researchers.

The penalty for intentionally reading or attempting to read a person’s identification information without their knowledge is imprisonment for up to one year, and a fine not to exceed $1500.  The fine in the bill originally introduced was $5000.

Furthermore, Senate Bill 31 “shall not apply to… the reading of a person’s identification document in the course of an act of good faith security research, experimentation, or scientific inquiry, including, but not limited to, activities useful in identifying and analyzing security flaws and vulnerabilities.” This provision was not in the bill as it was introduced, nor was it in the first two revisions.  Does this provision provide a loop hole for accused individuals to state they were simply trying to identify security flaws?

Also, should there be any tie in between an anti-skimming law with California Senate Bill 1386, which addresses the privacy of personal information?  SB 1386 states that organizations are required to notify citizens whose personal information was, or reasonably believed to been acquired by an unauthorized person.

What do you think?

Sam’s Club RFID Fines

Beyond WiFi, one of my interests lies in RFID, another wireless technology.  I ran across this interesting story at RFID Update.

Nearly a year ago, Sam’s Club sent some of their suppliers a letter ( dated January 7th, 2008 ) requiring RFID tagging of shipments to the DeSoto, Texas distribution center by January 31st, 2008. In the letter, Sam Club outlined fines of $2 to $3 per each non-tagged pallet.

Additionally, Sam’s Club is requiring tagging at the case level to all distribution centers by October 31, 2009 and at the item level by October 31, 2010

Have you heard of a company that received a fine after last year’s deadline? Is this a program that is “all bark, and no bite”?

Is Wal-Mart trying to pass along the additional cost of handling non RFID tagged goods? It seems that it would be equally effective for Wal-Mart to negotiate different purchase prices with suppliers who do not implement RFID tagging. I would be interested to hear Wal-Mart’s reasoning behind the fines in lieu of their other options. After all, what happens to suppliers who chose not to pay fines?

This story is interesting to me from the stand point that it seems to further the precedence for one business to fine another, rather than fines being levied by government or other regulatory bodies. Did this trend start with the Payment Card Industry? The PCI framework allows banks to fine institutions for non-compliance with their Data Security Standard, which is meant to protect card holder data.

What do you think about the situation?