Cisco-Eagle Becomes Business Partner for University of Arkansas RFID Center
Cisco-Eagle a partner in the University of Arkansas RFID Research Center
The conveyor test loop, taken at the Center's grand opening
The University of Arkansas has created the first multidisciplinary, “supply chain in a box” RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) research center devoted to examining the technology as used in a retail setting and beyond.
The University of Arkansas’ RFID Research Center is a collaborative effort of three existing research centers located within the Sam M. Walton College of Business: the Information Technology Research Center, the Center for Retailing Excellence, and the Supply Chain Management Research Center.
The UA RFID center will examine not only technical issues but also questions of public policy. This not-for-profit center will provide testing and research services to a nationally arrayed group of business partners and use the testing environment to further research RFID applications and to train students at the baccalaureate and graduate level.
Facilities already include a 7,800-square-foot lab containing the latest technology from a variety of vendors and housed off campus in a working warehouse owned and operated by Hanna's Candle Co., another of the center's sponsors.
The RFID Research Center also comprises on-campus classrooms.
Each of these research centers actively engages the business community in its academic and research efforts and currently boasts more than 60 companies among its membership, including such companies as Wal-Mart, Tyson, J.B.Hunt Transport, Dell, Data-Tronics Corp. (Arkansas Best Corporation), Procter & Gamble, Fed Ex, Unilever, General Mills, Coca-Cola, E. & J. Gallo Winery, and Frito-Lay.
Cisco-Eagle's Role in the RFID Research Center
As an RFID Sponsoring Member, Cisco-Eagle provides testing conveyors and engineering for the RFID center, allowing retail and supply chain companies to accurately test their products.
Cisco-Eagle does not sell or install RFID systems; it provides the material handling systems that help RFID users take advantage of the emerging technology in distribution and manufacturing environments.
The state of RFID technology for distribution and manufacturing operations
RFID is currently both everywhere and nowhere.
It has received a tremendous amount of press in the past year, but has only begun to be used (slightly). It is coming, for sure; however, it is years away from being ubiquitous. As with most new technologies, ignorance abounds and, unfortunately, guides the thoughts and actions of many that will be involved. Much research is needed to eliminate the abundance of ignorance and misinformation currently existing.
Dr. Bill Hardgrave heads the newly created RFID Research Center. He has worked with the RFID teams at Wal-Mart, Tyson, and others, and is considered one of the top academic experts in the field.
Due to established working relationships with many major RFID ‘players’ and geographic proximity to these companies, Dr. Hardgrave and his team of researchers and graduate students from information systems, computer science computer engineering, logistics / transportation, retailing, and public policy, among others, are uniquely and strategically positioned to be at the forefront of RFID research. Northwest Arkansas is considered by some to be the center of the RFID universe.
Working primarily in the retail, manufacturing, and transportation domains, the Center aims to be at the forefront of examining the use of RFID and its related impacts on business and society. As such, the Center will not focus on creating new RFID technology per se (i.e., tags, readers, antennas). Rather, the Center will focus on how best to utilize this technology in the supply chain.
The RFID Research Center's Mission
To create and extend knowledge in RFID utilization and its impacts on business and society.
The RFID Center's Vision
To be an internationally recognized leader in RFID application research.
The basic functions of the Center are the creation and dissemination of RFID knowledge
The Center is headed by Dr. Bill Hardgrave; researchers include faculty and students from a variety of disciplines (such as information systems, logistics, retailing, etc.) as appropriate for any particular research project. Rather than having a staff of paid researchers waiting for a project to fit their needs, teams of researchers will be assembled on an as-needed basis to work on projects. This provides flexibility in the types of projects conducted, agility in the ability to respond to various types of projects, greater breadth of topics that can be addressed, and increased depth of knowledge in specific application areas.
The Center also includes an active RFID laboratory containing the latest RFID technology (tags, antennas, readers) from a variety of vendors. The RFID Lab serves as a training ground for students, faculty, and businesses (e.g., Wal-Mart vendors). Exposing students and faculty to the technology helps diffuse the technology throughout the various academic disciplines, such as marketing, physics, and engineering. This exposure also generates interest in the technology.
For business training, the RFID Lab is used for workshops on such topics as technology basics (tags, antennas, readers), making the business case for RFID (costs, benefits, ROI, etc.), deployment (tag, antenna, reader placement), and supply chain optimization (how to squeeze costs out of the supply chain with RFID). Ultimately, the RFID Lab serves as a research facility for the RFID researchers (faculty and students).
Finally, the Center serves as a clearinghouse for RFID information developed through our own research, as well as results from outside research efforts. The Center also acts as a conduit for participating companies to share information via various forums such as roundtables.