Microsoft to Support RFID Development

Joining AutoID, will collaborate on standards for radio frequency identification technology

Chicago  June 11, 2003  Microsoft took advantage of the Retail Systems 2003 Conference & Exposition this week to announce that it will join AutoID Inc., a joint venture of the Uniform Code Council Inc., and EAN International, which will develop and oversee commercial and technical standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network.

Microsoft said it would work closely with AutoID to take product and item identification to the next level across manufacturing and retail supply chains. Central to fulfilling that mission is radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which combines the benefits of the silicon chip and radio frequencies. The technology has been lauded for its potential to provide higher levels of product visibility across the supply chain.

If widely adopted, RFID-enabled systems could help to reduce human error from data collection, reduce inventories, improve product availability, identify and reduce loss and waste, and help ensure safety and security.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software company said its efforts with AutoID would initially focus on the manufacturing and retail supply chains. In the future, Microsoft said it plans to work with its partners to develop technology and solutions that take advantage of the capabilities of RFID technology to improve efficiencies throughout the value chain.

Microsoft has a variety of software vendor and system integrator partners that deliver solutions built on Microsoft technologies for customers in a variety of industries, including manufacturing and retail. Microsoft believes that many of these partners will benefit from the further development of RFID technologies and standards.

The software company is already a certified In Sync alliance partner of UCCnet, an industry-backed initiative to resolve product data inaccuracies among trading partners. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the Microsoft BizTalk Toolkit for UCCnet, which allows retailers and their suppliers to connect to UCCnet and helps them integrate with trading partners.

"Working closely with our colleagues at AutoID is a unique opportunity for Microsoft to contribute to the development of standards and help drive adoption that will let our customers and partners take full advantage of this transformational new technology," said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president with Microsoft Business Solutions. "We are committed to open business standards and also support the UCC in its shared work with the United Nations' UN/CEFACT. Microsoft is committed to making it easy for our partners to develop scalable and secure RFID-enabled solutions that create significant value for our mutual customers."

Dicki Lulay, president of AutoID, said that Microsoft's participation is a strong indication of the technology's importance to businesses and consumers alike. "We applaud Microsoft's commitment to joining our membership in the development of an open and standards-based commercialization of the EPC Network and RFID technology," Lulay said. "Its participation in AutoID Inc. is a strong indication of its support of the UCC in commercializing this technology and the future benefits of this network to help companies in multiple industries view their supply chains in real time, saving time, money and speed to market."

John Clarke, chief technology officer and director of group technology and architecture at Tesco, one of the world's largest retailers, also applauded Microsoft's move. "AutoID is a key enabler for the transformation of the retail industry to make life better for our customers and simpler for our staff," Clarke said. "Microsoft joining the effort is a very positive step towards the very necessary achievement of standardization and adaptation of this technology for large and small businesses alike."

For more information on the use of RFID solutions in the supply chain, see "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.

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