New Canadian RFID Centre aims to educate

A new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Centre opened in Markham, Ont. on Wednesday, with a primary mandate of fostering organizations’ knowledge of how the burgeoning technology can reduce costs throughout the supply chain.

The facility will offer industries a hands-on opportunity to see how products can be read by RFID readers at every point in their journeys from production to consumer delivery. Nine founding organizations have combined to invest $1.7 million in the operation, including IBM Canada Ltd., the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, EPCglobal Canada and Symbol Technologies Inc.

RFID technology marks objects with tags that can read from a distance by radio-equipped reader systems. It is being adopted to track and inventory objects in retail, transportation and other industries.

Although RFID has the potential to be used in a wide variety of markets, the initial focus of the Centre’s work will be on the enablement of food traceability. Other products and processes will be included “in the near future,” according to a release.

“We have joined forces with key industry organizations and technology partners, and collectively, we have created a capability that will help companies better understand RFID’s business process impacts and how it will work in some very challenging physical situations, ensuring they can reap the benefits of the technology quickly and with low risk,” said Shai Verma, RFID practice leader, IBM Canada Ltd.

The Centre will be the first such facility in North America to demonstrate Generation 2, or Gen2, RFID technology. Developed by EPCglobal Inc. and submitted to ISO (International Organization for Standardization), Gen2 is intended to be a single global standard for RFID applications using UHF (ultrahigh frequency) signals. It will replace earlier EPCglobal standards and resolve differences among RFID systems used in different parts of the world.

Gen2 lets multiple RFID readers operate in a smaller area without interfering with each other. It also adds an encryption feature to hide the contents of RFID tags from anyone not authorized to see them.

According to Nigel Wallis, senior analyst, professional services for IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, the new centre’s tangible models of typical RFID processes should go a long way to hurdling the technology’s biggest obstacle in Canada.

“RFID needs education and evangelism, and because of the specific practicalities of RFID, you need to have a hands-on playground for people to actually see and feel and move the items around, and see how it is going to change their warehouse management,” said Wallis. “This facility is going to enable IBM to take prospects and get them to not just think through but see where the benefits can come.…It moves RFID from speculation to something quantifiable.”

Those interested in visiting the Centre can fill out a request form at

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