Sun Microsystems and Capgemini yesterday announced the launch of a jointly developed Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system. The system is designed to help enable retail and consumer packaged-goods companies to comply with RFID mandates issued by a growing number of retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons.
According to the companies, the Sun and Capgemini RFID system is unique in that it has been designed from the ground up to optimize the full supply chain. The system addresses business-justification and supply-chain modeling, as well as the application landscape at both the enterprise and middleware levels.
“RFID adds a new level of granularity to supply chain data and has great potential to optimize inventory management across enterprises,” said Christopher Boone, a program manager with IDC. “To take advantage of RFID, retailers and CPG companies will have to reevaluate and reengineer supply chain processes as well as the applications and databases that support these processes.”
IDC forecasts that spending on RFID for the retail supply chain in the United States will grow from US$91.5 million in 2003 to approximately $1.3 billion by 2008. Capgemini and Sun have collaborated for more than 12 years.
Companies can use Capgemini’s development centers and systems environment centers, as well as Sun’s RFID test centers where suppliers can test their RFID implementations before investing money in the technology and services. Yesterday, Sun’s Dallas, Texas-based RFID test center held an open house at the facility.
Sun and Capgemini RFID systems are based on the Sun Java Enterprise System software — an open software system — and Sun’s RFID infrastructure software that offers self-healing and provisioning and works with electronic product code (EPC) readers.
Sun’s EPC-compliant RFID software is supported on several systems available from the company, including Solaris x86 or Linux-based systems through symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) environments that use UltraSPARC processors and Solaris OS.
“Capgemini and Sun are working together with customers to build collaborative RFID systems that allow organizations of all shapes and sizes to go ‘beyond compliance’ to seek competitive advantage in their supply chain,” said Mal Postings, global mobility leader at Capgemini. “We provide companies with an expertise based on firsthand experience and real-world implementations.”
About Sun’s Work with RFID
“Our codeveloped system is part of an ongoing effort to deliver the most secure RFID systems to the market,” said Julie Sarbacker, director of the Auto-ID business unit at Sun. “We understand the pain points in the transition and process for retailers and distributors, and we’re designing end-to-end systems with our partners to reduce the complexity and costs from the equation.”
Sun’s standards-based RFID system includes hardware, software and services. For more than three years, the company has been working to make RFID technology an extension of Web services and a seamless part of software infrastructure, such as the Sun Java Enterprise System.
Sun has been a member of and advisor to the MIT Auto-ID Center — the driving force for Auto-ID standards — and has participated in numerous pilots and deployments.
In addition to the Dallas center, Sun plans to open RFID test centers around the world to help companies test their RFID implementations before they invest — from tagging products, integrating data into back-end systems and sharing this data with supply chain partners.
RFID Test Centers
The test center in Dallas will provide a controlled environment that simulates the varying conditions of an actual distribution center or warehouse. Sun executives, along with partners and customers, participated in yesterday’s opening event at the center.
The test center includes the latest warehouse logistics and RFID equipment from Sun and its partners, including ADT Security Services, Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Identification Group, Matrics, Nortel, Texas Instruments and Venture Research.
With retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense and other organizations issuing requests for RFID compliance to their suppliers, Sun is attempting to help its customers address RFID compliance-related issues.
“Our goal with this test center is to provide customers with access to the technology and the systems needed to test their RFID implementations, and to reduce the time and overall cost required for customers to meet these mandates,” said Larry Singer, senior vice president of global markets and strategies at Sun.
The Sun RFID Test Center also will be used to demonstrate how long-term business benefits can be achieved through integration of RFID data with back-end systems.