Tuesday, November 04, 2003

RFID spreading to the auto industry, but competing standards threaten adoption

At a wireless conference in Las Vegas last week, Tony Scott, CTO at General Motors Corp., predicted that the auto industry will adopt radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for supply chain applications. "It will happen," Scott said, after his keynote speech. He predicted adoption in the automotive supply chain by 2008, a little less aggressive than the schedule laid out by Wal-Mart and the US Department of Defense (DoD) for similar applications.

But there might be one problem. Scott indicated that GM is working on a new RFID standard with MIT's Auto-ID Center. At the same time, according to Computerworld the US DoD's standard will be based on a specification from the International Standards Organization (ISO), while Walmart will adopt the standard being developed by EPCglobal, a group within UCC. So, if we end up with three competing standards, it could pretty much kill the economies of scale needed to drive RFID tag prices down to where widescale adoption is cost-effective.

For more information on RFID and initiatives by DoD and Walmart, see my post on October 11.

Update, Nov 5: Wal-Mart is meeting this week with its largest 100 suppliers to plan implementation of RFID. Suppliers attending include Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, and Unilever. Technology providers will also be there, including IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Philips Semiconductor, and SAP. CNET has the story.

Update, Nov. 8: Forrester identifies some of the obstacles in Wal-Mart's RFID initiative in this CNET article.

Update, Nov 9: I've just learned that MIT's Auto-ID Center has licensed its RFID technology to EPCglobal and is turning over future development to that group. Therefore, there should be few if any standards conflicts between Walmart's program and that of the auto industry. ARC Advisory Group has a short research note on the subject. But, the potential conflict with DoD's adoption of ISO standards still remains.

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