February 25, 2004, 12:00 AM

Target Corp.’s RFID directive helps RFID momentum, UCC says

Target has directed its top suppliers to begin using RFID tags on shipments in the spring of 2005 – a move that complements other developments that will make the product-tracking technology a reality in the retail industry, the Uniform Code Council says.

Target Corp. has directed its suppliers to begin using RFID tags on cases and pallets in the spring of 2005 – a move that complements other RFID developments to help make the product-tracking technology a reality in the retail industry, the Uniform Code Council says.

Target CIO Paul Singer distributed a letter over the retailer’s corporate extranet telling its largest suppliers that they will be required to begin using radio frequency identification tags on cases and pallets shipped to certain distribution centers in 2005, a Target spokeswoman says.

Target, which is testing RFID technology with several of its major suppliers, expects to have all of its suppliers placing RFID tags on cases and pallets by 2007, the spokeswoman says. RFID is seen as eventually replacing barcodes for scanning and distributing product data throughout the supply chain, providing retailers and suppliers real-time visibility of shipments over the web to help them get the right products to the right stores and at the right time to meet customer demand.

In addition to Target, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Department of Defense and the Food and Drug Administration are also pushing the use of RFID tags on product shipments. The FDA sees RFID as helping to control the flow of counterfeit drugs; the Defense Department is testing RFID to distribute goods throughout its global network of stores on military bases. And in Europe., retailers Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Metro are also moving ahead with their own RFID projects. "All these things are moves in the right direction of getting this technology to become a reality in the retail industry," says the UCC spokesman. UCC is a data standards body that oversees EPCglobal, which is developing the Electronic Product Code Network as a comprehensive RFID-based system that will incorporate the transmission of RFID product data among retailers and their suppliers over the Internet.

ABI Research, Oyster Bay, NY, estimates that the market for RFID hardware, software and integration services will exceed $7 billion by 2008.

In another RFID matter, the California state legislature is considering a bill submitted by state Sen. Debra Bowen (D. – Redondo Beach) designed to set privacy standards for the use of RFID in retail and government. Senate Bill 1834, which Bowen says would become the first state law of its kind in the U.S., requires any business or state government agency using an RFID system designed to track products or people to:
-- Let people know when an RFID system can track and collect information about them;
-- Get express consent from people before tracking and collecting information; and
-- Detach or destroy RFID tags that are attached to a purchased product before a customer leaves the store.

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