SSA Global to establish RFID center in New Zealand

ERP company SSA Global Technologies Inc. plans to set up a "center of excellence" in radio-frequency identification (RFID) in New Zealand, with Hamilton as a probable site. The center, designed to provide expertise and information-sharing for organisations to implement RFID effectively, is expected to open about mid-year.

SSA has an eye to the cluster of farming and support industries, particularly dairying, in the Waikato, says SSA's Sydney-based Pacific regional solutions manager, Trevor Barrows. There are plenty of suppliers in the area in the consumer packaged goods market - the kind of companies likely to use RFID, as are the farmers themselves.

The New Zealand environment in general is more favored than Australia in its radio spectrum and emission regulations, says Barrows, and so will probably move ahead more quickly.

Passive RFID - where the tag does not send its own radio waves but only responds when stimulated by waves from a scanner - typically works at frequencies between 915MHz and 928MHz, Barrows says. In Australia, this band is currently reserved for short-range ICT-type communication devices such as Bluetooth, so some regulatory changes are needed before RFID can really take off there. Those restrictions do not exist here, he says.

Another limiting factor in Australia is the restriction on power levels to 1 watt, with an eye to health risks. This restricts the range of a scanner to about a meter, Barrows says. New Zealand has higher limits and hence a longer range is feasible.

SSA and its collaborators are prepared for local protests from health lobbies, he says. "We can prove from figures issued by international occupational health and safety bodies that [the 4 watts permitted by NZ regulation] is safe."

To date there are only two SSA centers of excellence in RFID, one in the US and one in Europe, but the number is expected to grow rapidly, with centers also slated for Singapore and China.

SSA claims to have developed a range of comprehensive RFID solutions in collaboration with IBM, supply-chain company Intermec Technologies and standards body UPC Global.

The joint package, consisting of hardware, software, middleware and deployment services. is currently deployed on the IBM eServer iSeries platform, using WebSphere middleware to link with Intermec's scanning, printing and labeling equipment.

Australians curious about RFID will be able to question SSA Global, at a pair of seminars scheduled for next month in Sydney and Melbourne, but SSA and its collaborators will probably not be bringing its "roadshow" to New Zealand for some months yet.

In Australia, the two free, half-day seminars will be hosted by SSA Global, IBM and Intermec, with keynote presentations from Gartner and EPCGlobal Australia.

SSA New Zealand general manager Graeme Riley won't commit to a seminar here in the near future, although he says the local industry is no less prepared for RFID than Australia. "In many respects we're ahead of Australia, and I'm not just saying that for parochial reasons."

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