Hong Kong group makes tag system the tool of choice

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2006, 12:00am

Organisation pioneers initiatives such as pilot programmes in the Pearl River Delta to create common standards

EPCglobal Hong Kong is leading the drive to make radio frequency identification (RFID) technology the tool of choice in the next generation of supply chain management solutions.

Anna Lin, GSI Hong Kong and EPCglobal Hong Kong chief executive, said the organisation was pioneering initiatives to create common standards for the use of RFID through the EPCglobal Network.

EPCglobal Hong Kong, the local representative body of the global organisation, has the largest membership base in Asia, with more than 30 technology partners, including hardware and software providers, consulting companies and system integrators.

RFID technology is a wireless system that allows a product of any size to be tracked using tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand attached or incorporated into a product and read by a remote antenna.

Using the EPCglobal Network system, products can be tracked using real-time events and information relayed through EPC Information Services or a member firm's existing information systems.

In addition to organising training courses and seminars to help businesses learn more about the system, EPCglobal Hong Kong has set up a government-backed pilot programme involving the manufacture of garments and consumer electronics to promote the use of RFID in the Pearl River Delta region.

'Our pilot programmes, now in their second year, provide valuable reference cases for exploring and expanding the applications of EPC and RFID across the Pearl River Delta supply chain management structure,' Ms Lin said.

'The goal is to build the Hong Kong EPC Network based on EPC standards to create end-to-end supply chain visibility for Pearl River Delta suppliers and global buyers,' she said.

Compliance and retailer-driven mandates were the two major drivers behind the widespread interest and implementation of RFID across the world.

According to technology analyst company IDTechEx, almost three times the volume of RFID tags will be sold this year than over the previous 60 years since their invention. Worldwide, total spending last year on RFID tags, readers and services amounted to US$1.85 billion.

Of the more than 600 million RFID-enabled tags produced, about 150 million were EPC tags. In the past three years, the price of producing RFID tags has dropped from 20-50 US cents to less than 10 US cents.

Ms Lin said costs were expected to decline even further in the next few years.

'Falling costs are enabling manufacturers, governments and organisations such as ours to proactively explore the various ways that RFID and a global EPC network can further drive technological innovations and value propositions,' Ms Lin said.

The organisation would continue to build more reference cases for exploring and expanding the applications of RFID and highlight business benefits associated with participation in the Hong Kong EPC Network, she said.

Globally, Wal-Mart, Target and Marks and Spencer have announced their intention to expand their RFID pilot programmes. Wal-Mart's top 100 suppliers are already using RFID for security and identification purposes. Worldwide the vehicle industry is also stepping up its use of RFID for tracking and co-ordinating parts.

In the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association, which includes nearly 300 of the world's leading passenger airlines, is leading an initiative to introduce RFID technology in baggage handling. In Hong Kong, the Airport Authority is one of the biggest users of RFID technology.

'EPC is involved in these projects and others,' Ms Lin said.