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PC distributor puts RFID tags in goods

A Singaporean IT products distributor is introducing radio tags to track inventory and delivery.

SINGAPORE--One of Asia's largest IT products distributors will soon be tagging its goods with radio frequency identification chips.

Singapore-based ECS Holdings, which distributes products such as Zodiac's Tapwave handheld and the TiVo-like Everex PC in the region, is currently implementing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology across its entire warehousing operations on the island-state.

"At any one point in time, ECS carries inventory in Asia in excess of S$100 million ($60 million) to S$120 million ($120 million)," Tay Eng Hoe, chief executive of ECS, said at a press event Wednesday. "We hope the RFID project that we are participating in will be able to help us better manage our inventory."

Tay said attaching RFID tags to goods will provide real-time tracking capabilities for ECS, allowing the company to make better projections of its inventory requirements.

Unlike conventional bar code tracking technology, RFID tags signal their location to a network of readers that could be installed at places such as docks, warehouses or retail stores. This allows distributors like ECS to accurately track their products as they are transported from one place to another.

The technology has already received a strong backing in the United States and Europe from retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores and Tesco.

ECS is currently working with software giant Oracle and RFID vendor GT&T Engineering to roll out the system, which is expected to be completed in six months. If the project is successful, radio frequency tracking technology will be gradually rolled out across ECS's 20 warehouses in Asia, Tay added.

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Unlike Wal-Mart, ECS does not require its partners to adopt RFID technology, he said. The company declined to reveal the cost of the implementation.

In Singapore, RFID has been identified as a key growth area for the local technology industry. In May, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said it plans to invest $6 million over a three-year period to promote the adoption and development of the technology. Under the initiative, IDA seeks to create five RFID-enabled supply chain clusters by 2006.

Aloysius Choong of CNETAsia reported from Singapore.