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I was one of the authors in a proposal that was submitted on November 15, 2006 in the 'Platform Research' programme. The proposal involved the study of a complete supply chain in the garment industry - from the brandowner, retail shops, distribution centers, manufacturers in PRD and a supplier. [posted December 12, 2006]

Some understanding of the RFID research community based on a workshop publication and other personal communications: The Hong Kong R&D Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management Enabling Technologies (LSCM-ET) began its operation in April 2006 (after this writing). A consultation workshop was held on December 15, 2005 providing a glimpse into the ‘enabling technology’ as perceived and/or pioneered by major research centers in Hong Kong. The key focus is RFID-induced projects, possibly suggesting LSCM-ET could be the leader in such technology adoption in logistics and supply chain management. We believe Hong Kong can be positioned as such if all the constituents of such enabling technology realm plays well together. In here, based on the brochure (“Consultation Workshop on Technology Roadmap and R&D Programme: R&D Scope & Project Synopses” ) passed out in the workshop, with proposals submitted by interested parties, we will provide an casual analysis if the patterns suggest harmony along different dimensions, clashes in views and concepts, or simply the parties are not on the same RFID-induced fabrics.

During the initial discussion on the formation of LSCM-ET, a roadmap was proposed for major areas in the ET among the three universities (HKU, UST, and CUHK – order is not important here). Three areas was listed in the brochure: 1) Hardware Technologies, with 2 subareas, 2) Networking and Infrastructure Technologies, with 6 subareas, and 3) Application and Decision Support Technologies, with 5 subareasa.

Understanding the RFID technologies was facilitated by the research carried out by the Auto-ID center in MIT, along with the published tutorials, position papers, and technical papers. The applicability of the technologies covers any taggable entity where on-demand identification is required, or desirable at this time. This means the efficacy of the RFID technology will cut across different product lines, vertical and horizontal markets, different industries, and different country of origins, etc. With these applicability diversities and the initial identified shortcomings of reading of tag data, research would be needed in the design of the hardware technologies, from readers, tags, antennas and packaging. The ‘hardware technologies’ should also include the air interface protocol, the addressability of tags, and the storage and processing capability of the IC.

As the readability of any tags can be managed and secure, and the usability levels can be controlled at different points of ownership, the data carried by each tag must be verifiable, secure and extensible. The plumbing for data and information flow is new and a problem to investigate in order to facilitate such ad hoc interrogation over the information network buoyed by the Internet with the ease offered by the Web. There are other questions, e.g., 1) Are the current wireless network developments adaptive to the RFID-induced information sharing needs? 2) Do the current mobile networks play a role in anywhere anytime information alerts? and 3) Would the current Internet infrastructure supports the integration of such networks with no necessary new designs?

The information infrastructure almost is non-existing (other than what was proposed as the EPCglobal Network) to support information sharing with data and information generated from the RFID-adoption in supply chains and logistics.

As the RFID technology is slowly and surely woven into the e-business fabrics, the porting of this raw products-on-the-move data and information into information systems at corporations and enterprises requires tremendous efforts for both developers and users. The proper use of this up-to-the-minute data in the decision process demands evaluation of business processes, with process reengineering in the store.

Here is a summary of research issues proposed by multiple units of the academic community in Hong Kong. This is purely an opinion of mine, not a representation of what the research actually entails – such information is best left for the agency to clarify. It is not the intention of the author to leave out any for any reason, or to be a complete interpretation of any nature. Three projects were identified of which I was an author.

 Hardware Technologies
  • RF interface of UHF RFID tags to supplement the mass customization with niche applications that required varying design and characteristics; hard IP would be realized
  • Antenna printing of passive tags
  • Embedded systems to facilitate connectivity of an handheld to other information appliances for the delivery of RFID data capture via different communication media
  • Single-chip passive UHF RFID readers and tags with multiple-protocol
  • Active UHF RFID tags in logistics management (cross-docking)
Networking and Infrastructure Technologies
  • GDS (Global Data Synchronization) gateway
  • Modelling of business processes for standardization, such as DTTN; embedded systems with common business data exchange protocols such as ebXML, Web Services, AS2, etc.
  • ALP (All Locations Product) Tracking System – provide the physical location of a tagged entity (IVE, HKBU, HKU-ETI, CUPEM); monitoring physical changes around a tagged entity
  • Service-oriented infrastructure to integrate SCs and L value nets; service-platform for SME on RFID-enabled Applications
  • “Web-mediated information logistics” – if only RFID can talk
  • Web Services Infrastructure for RFID Application Sharing
  • Technology for privacy & security schemes in RFID-driven business chains
  • Technology Towards EPC-based Information Agent
  • A knowledge portal for LSCM standards
  • Deployment of RFID technology for Guangdong Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) Bureau
  • RFID Testing and Demonstration Center for LSCM Technology
  • RFID Development and Certification Centre
Application and Decision Support Technologies
  • A RFID-Enabled Container Terminal Planning, Monitoring, and Control System
  • The use of RFID in Logistics and Supply Chain Management for the Garment Industry
  • A Sector by Sector Technical Feasibility Study on the Application of RFID Technology on Various Industry Sectors along the Supply Chain
  • Container truck location platform for proactive job scheduling in container terminals
  • Algorithms and AI to make business sense from movement sensing in warehouse environment
  • Simulation models of RFID adoption in Multi Echelon Supply Chains – demand planning
  • Wireless Manufacturing Technology for Real-time Improvements in Shop-Floor Planning and Execution


aThis is different to the 'Call for Proposals 2006-07' categories given in the presentation slides: 3 subareas under Hardware Technologies; 4 areas in Network and Infrastructure Technologies; and 5 areas in Applications and Decision Support Technologies.

[written Feb 2006]

HK LSCM R&D Center LSCM Centre website (http://www.lscm.hk)
RFID discussion in the A2ABlog
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