Suppliers could be restocking their own products on supermarket shelves in the future if RFID lives up to its promises and overcomes privacy concerns, IT and supply chain heads were told at a conference this week.
The vision for future applications for radio frequency identification came from BP Lubricants senior strategic project leader Dan Cadigan.
He was speaking to delegates at the fourth annual RFID Return on Investment event in London this week, and has been heading a trial of RFID-
tagged products within Wal-Mart for the past year, monitoring out-of-stocks in a test store.
Cadigan also caused a stir with his suggestion that RFID readers would be able to scan what products people had in their homes from outdoors if tags had not been deactivated.
“The privacy concern is real. It’s the only thing still lingering and stopping more people from getting involved.
“What’s to stop someone from driving past my home and determining what’s in my cupboard? Nothing will stop RFID going forward at lightning speed other than privacy issues.”
But Patrick King, director of global economic strategies for Michelin, called for Cadigan to retract his comment, adding that it pandered to unfounded public fears.
He said: “We have an awesome responsibility to educate people, not create fear.”
Wal-Mart’s director of information systems Simon Langford, who announced that the company’s trials were being extended to Asda, said RFID had proved its worth to the retailer, suppliers and customers, with out of stocks in test stores reduced by 16% to 26%.
He added that the use of RFID in conjunction with promotions to track products would be an exciting area this year, with increases in sales of up to 29% brought about by ensuring that product availability matched campaign schedules.
“Suppliers also build in a time lapse of eight days to get a product on to the sales floor. But through trials with suppliers using RFID, we have got that down to three days,” he said.
Ellen Daley, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said 2008 would be a critical tipping point for RFID as it would represent the next cycle of IT investment for companies.
She added that there were few short-term gains as it was not just a new technology but a complete change to companies’ business processes.
Rachel Barnes