History has shown that as new technologies emerge, the interest groups and forums focused on that technology tend to follow shortly thereafter. Although radio frequency identification (RFID) — first developed during World War II — is not new, budding interest groups have been popping up in recent months to examine the technology.
Microsoft Canada Co. recently introduced its new Partner Advisory Council, which according to the company, was initiated to look at RFID requirements to determine how to take advantage of the technology and discover how it benefits Canadian retailers and manufacturers.
RFID is an electromagnetic technology similar in theory to bar codes, but which need not be scanned to be processed or located.
Although Microsoft Canada is a member of various RFID-minded groups including EPCglobal — the body which is currently leading the development of standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network to support the use of RFID — the software giant said it was looking to start a group with a Canadian focus.
Microsoft Canada’s Lasha Dekker, director, Developer and Platform Evangelism at the Mississauga, Ont.-based company, said Microsoft felt it was impor-tant to create a group that was more vocal for both its partners and customers on the topic of RFID.
“Our intent with the council is twofold: one is to enable the partners, but to also provide education to our customers as to what is available to them so that they can look for solutions that can make this volume of data much easier to organize and track and react to from a business perspective,” Dekker explained.
Cactus Commerce Inc. is a products and services company based in Gatineau, Que., which focuses on business-to-business (B2B) solutions for the retail and manufacturing space. Pierre Deschamps, executive vice-president for the company, said Cactus Commerce is interested in RFID and Microsoft’s advisory council from a data-synchronization angle.
In the retail space there are a couple of different large initiatives going on now, one of which is called data synchronization, Deschamps explained. When retailers and manufacturers exchange information, the majority of transactions that actually go through have inherent errors in them mostly because it is very difficult to keep the data in synch on both the supplier and the retailer side. That is very inefficient and is costing retailers a lot of money. As a result, there is an industry effort to consolidate that information.
Deschamps calls data synchronization the precursor to RFID. “One of the first places RFID is likely to gain traction is the logistics area…the tracking of shipments from one party to another. With that comes a lot more data and essentially if you do not have proper data to start off with all you are doing is moving more bad data around and that makes it very difficult to extract any useful information out of it,” he noted.
Cactus Commerce brings to the council a product built on the BizTalk Microsoft platform called Global Data Synchronization (GDS) Accelerator for BizTalk, which according to Deschamps gives users the ability to attack data synchronization both from a manufacturer and retailer perspective.
In order to consolidate information all of it is passed through a central third party — called the Global Registry. The Uniform Code Council Inc., an organization dealing with the development and implementation of standards-based, global supply chain solutions, governs this registry.
Cactus Commerce’s GDS Accelerator solution allows users to connect to the global registry, allows manufacturers to upload information and retailers to download information.