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Oracle enters RFID fray

Oracle announced Tuesday that the latest version of its warehouse management software will support radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

SAN DIEGO -- Oracle will be shipping updated warehouse management software early this year with new radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, the company announced Tuesday at Oracle AppsWorld 2004.

The four-day conference is being attended this week by more than 10,000 Oracle users. The show is focusing on new features and services connected with the company's 11i E-Business Suite.

The updated RFID-enabled warehouse management software will be made available in the newest version of Oracle's E-Business Suite, which is due out this summer and is designed for companies that need to meet new RFID mandates from Wal-Mart. The massive retailer wants its top 100 suppliers equipped with RFID technology by 2005.

Todd Alexander, IT manager at the Los Angeles book distribution center for the Church of Scientology International, is watching closely to see how companies are beginning to use radio frequency identification (RFID) to track goods in the supply chain.

Although Alexander's company isn't planning to use RFID anytime soon, Alexander expects it will someday. With companies like SAP AG, Oracle and others beginning to offer the technology to customers, Alexander is keeping a close eye on the technology.

"It's not critical for us right now to make any major changes," Alexander said. "But if it increases efficiency and reduces costs, then I'm sure it will be a viable alternative for any company."

The new warehouse management technology will work in conjunction with Oracle's 10g database and 10g application server, and it will be able to handle large volumes of transactional data and improve order fulfillment operations, said Jon Chorley, Oracle's senior director of warehouse management and inventory.

Oracle is trying to catch up with German software maker SAP, which announced earlier this month new RFID technology targeted at Wal-Mart suppliers. SAP's solution, currently available only to beta users, is part of SAP's event management and supply chain management software. The technology is built on SAP Web Application Server. It will be made generally available later this year.

Oracle said that the latest version of its warehouse management software will enable pallet- and case-level tagging, for automatic processing of inbound and outbound shipments.

Oracle is also addressing the massive volumes of data that enter systems using RFID technology. The data can encompass all aspects of the supply chain, including order entry, manufacturing, maintenance, shipping, receiving and inventory. The deluge of data can push the boundaries of data warehousing scalability, performance and manageability.

Oracle's goal is to get companies that use Oracle applications to exchange RFID information smoothly with servers provided by other vendors, and to have the scalability available in the Oracle database to provide the kind of query support needed to respond to problems and issues, Oracle executives said.

Oracle is following its competitors in offering software that supports RFID technology, said Jeff Woods, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. SAP remains the leader in the technology, having been investing in research in RFID during the last decade.

"The market for this technology is still evolving, and it's evolving rapidly," he said. "As the market shakes out, many of the giants like SAP and Oracle will remain."


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