Bell Canada Picked to Lead Major RFID Pilot Project

Company's products will be tracked from suppliers all the way to Staples stores


TORONTO (CP) - Bell Canada said Thursday it has been chosen to lead a test project that will explore how retailers and suppliers can make use of radio-frequency identification tags to reduce costs and increase productivity.

The pilot project, which Bell calls Canada's first end-to-end electronic product code/RFID test, will use a Staples Business Depot store and up to four suppliers.

RFID has been hailed by many in the retail industry as an efficiency-increasing technology for its ability to wirelessly track individual items from the manufacturer's shop floor to the checkout line at a store.

The system employs "tags" attached to goods that can transmit data such as stock numbers or dates of manufacture to a remote receiver that can be linked to central inventory-management systems.

Bell was chosen by a group of industry suppliers and retailers called the Supply Chain Network Project, which includes Staples, Unisource and UPS Supply Chain Solutions.

"This project is about increasing Staples Business Depot's productivity and decreasing their costs," said Paul Rowe, vice-president of enterprise solutions at Bell.

"RFID capabilities can reduce labour, distribution and shrink costs through process improvement, better inventory visibility and reductions in the duplication and handling of goods," said Jeff Ashcroft, a VP at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and developer of the project.

Art Smith, chief executive of EPCglobal Canada, said that while there have been "some isolated" EPC/RFID pilot projects in the past, this is the first that stretches from manufacturers to distributors to retailers, and adheres to global standards for the technology.

On Thursday, shares in Bell Canada parent BCE Inc. closed at $30.63, up eight cents for the day.

(c) 2005 Associated Press