SAP Plans RFID Roadmap for SMBs

By Jacqueline Emigh  |  Posted 2005-03-10 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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SAP is teaming with Intermec on a new product aimed at easing compliance with the still-controversial Gen 2 RFID standard among small trading partners of large enterprises.

Enterprise resource planning giant SAP AG has begun collaborating with RFID (radio-frequency identification) IP holder Intermec Technologies on new offerings meant to help companies with fewer than 100 employees meet RFID mandates from Wal-Mart, Ford Motor Company, the U.S. Department of Defense and other huge trading partners.

In April, Intermec expects to ship EasyADC (Automatic Data Compliance) for SAP Business One, a hardware and software bundle geared toward collecting bar-code information for use inside both Business One and the enterprise-oriented mySAP Business Suite.

For later this year—probably this summer—the RFID specialist eyes the availability of downloadable software upgrades that will help SMBs (small and midsize businesses) comply with a variety of looming RFID mandates, said Jeff Johnson, who heads up global alliances in Intermec's SMB Practice.

Typically, SMBs lack deep IT resources for addressing these mandates on their own, let alone for moving beyond "slap-and-ship," according to Johnson.

"[An SMB] might only have one person in IT, or maybe two or three. [IT] doesn't have time to investigate RFID, or compare [products]. Yet they have a need to feel like they're covered [for meeting mandates]. They're looking for direction on what to do," he said.

Meanwhile, SAP plans to team with Intermec, APICS, Fourth Shift, American Express Tax and Business Services, and other, still-unnamed partners—including some users—on an "educational roadmap" for SMBs that are being required to adopt RFID.

The roadmap will start to be drawn up at an upcoming "RFID Congress."

Essentially, components will include printed documents, Web-based seminars and "presentations at relevant trade shows," said Dan Kraus, vice president of SAP Business One, also during the interview.

Intermec's Johnson told eweek.com that the EasyADC upgrades for some small trading partners—including those of Wal-Mart and Target Corp.—will be based on Gen 2 (Generation 2), the recent update to epcGlobal's RFID standard.

Read more here about Gen 2 providing enhanced security for data stored on tags and in corresponding databases.

"Our eventual plan is to offer compliance updates for different RFID mandates from Intermec's Web site, but we haven't at all started to implement that plan," Johnson said.

Yet Gen 2 incorporates patented technology from Intermec for optional use, and Intermec's intentions to charge licensing fees for use of these patents has stirred some controversy in the supply chain, manufacturing and retail communities.

Intermec's Johnson said this week that EasyADC's $24,995 list price will encompass all licensing fees for Intermec patents included in the Gen 2 standard, along with one year of service and maintenance.

Next Page: Early details.

Initially, the kit will be aimed at SMBs that haven't moved to bar-code technology and are still collecting and managing product information largely or exclusively on paper.

The first release of the product will include two handheld terminals with built-in 802.11 RF radios and scanners; a wireless access point; a bar-code printer; hardware peripherals such as chargers; EasyADC software; and built-in interfaces to Business One.

Once the "compliance" downloads become available, users will be able to replace the bar-code printer, for example, with an RFID printer, according to the Intermec executive.

Intermec's upcoming EasyADC software is designed to automate data collection, along with label printing, and inventory tracking, shipping and receiving.

According to Johnson, the wizard-driven interface will be aimed at ease of use, so that help from outside consultants won't generally be required.

"You'll be able to install EasyADC pretty much as you'd install any PC software," Johnson said.

In his view, hardware management has been simplified, too.

"If the blue light [on the PC screen] is solid, it means [the hardware] is connected. If the light is flashing, it isn't connected. If you double-click on the blue light, you can find out what you should do."

Johnson said he expects users of EasyADC for Business One will go beyond "slap-and-ship" and start instituting RFID for "internal use" within the next 12 to 24 months.

Yet at first, Johnson doesn't anticipate seeing much tagging of individual items, except on large-ticket items such as refrigerators or cars.

Click here to read more about SAP and Intel Corp.'s plans to work together to encourage companies to adopt RFID technology.

"If an RFID tag costs 50 cents, it really doesn't make any sense to place it on an item priced at 50 cents," he said.

But SAP's Business One is a very different product from the enterprise-oriented mySAP, according to SAP's Kraus.

"To many SMBs, 'enterprise resource planning' is still kind of a foreign concept," said Kraus.

Specifically, BusinessOne is designed to build on accounting capabilities—often the first area of a company to be automated—with integrated functionality in related areas such as sales; receiving; CRM (customer relationship management); and "basic MRP" (manufacturing resource planning).

On the other hand, BusinessOne is already tightly integrated with mySAP, according to Kraus.

SAP also plans to provide interested enterprises with direct systems integration services for using data from EasyADC inside of mySAP, Kraus told eweek.com.

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