SAP shows off RFID's potential

SAP has declared its TechEd Conference in Las Vegas this week a RFID zone.

SAP has declared its TechEd Conference in Las Vegas this week a RFID zone.

RFID tags are an up and coming technology with a potential to have a huge impact, particularly for retailers and distributors. The chips store and transmit data to nearby receivers.

That versatile capability has a wide range of possible uses, from easing product tracking to carrying out electronic transactions, such as monetary exchanges or allowing access to secured areas.

RFID trials have been going on for years, and some companies have mapped out plans to take advantage of the technology.

Wal-Mart hopes to begin using RFID tags to track pallets from its suppliers in 2005. But technical issues and the tags' cost have kept RFID technology in the developmental stages.

Privacy concerns have recently joined the list of obstacles to widespread RFID use. California's state senate held a hearing last month to consider the implications of the tags being used one day to track the movements of goods and the consumers carrying them.

But for supply chain software developers such as SAP, RFID is a key emerging technology and a potential area of competitive advantage. SAP is working with several customers on RFID projects and has some support for the technology already built into its software, said spokesman Bill Wohl.

By showcasing the technology at TechEd, SAP hopes to prompt developers to consider RFID's potential uses.

SAP will include RFID tags in attendees' badges. On the show floor, suppliers' booths will feature receiver antennae that can record the contact information of booth visitors, without the usual badge-scanning routine. Kiosks in the exhibit hall will allow visitors to check their personal show schedules, which will be automatically detected though the RFID tags and displayed.

"It will not only make for a better conference, but it might also end up spurring a customer project down the road," Wohl said.

SAP has set the threshold fairly high for having your tag recorded, Wohl said.

"Because RFID is new, we want people to be aware that it's happening," he said. "There will be a very visible antenna in the booth, and people will be encouraged to get their tags very close to it."

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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