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Tesco to track milk deliveries by RFID

Radio-tagging trial is part of European supermarket giant's move toward wider supply-chain tracking.

European supermarket chain Tesco is to start using RFID tags to track the delivery of milk to distribution plants and stores.

The move signals the next phase of Tesco's RFID plans, which involve using permanent radio tags on "returnable transport items" such as the cages and trolleys used when goods are delivered from distribution centers to the supermarket stores.

This new "unit of delivery" stage follows on from Tesco's initial trials of radio frequency identification technology. These began in 2003 and involved the use of disposable tags to track the high-value goods most susceptible to being stolen by shoplifters, including razor blades and cell phones.

The test with supplier Robert Wiseman Dairies will see tags applied to a number of milk cages that will be used at two trial Tesco stores. These tags will be read at key points in the supply chain, including as the trolleys leave RWD, when they arrive at a Tesco store and as they move onto the store floor.

The tags will be able to track the delivery and journey of each individual trolley.

The technology being used includes hardware from ADT/Tyco, software from OATSystems and tags from Integrated Product Intelligence.

Tesco said it aims to introduce RFID tags for tracking trolleys and cages through the supply chain to all its shops and depots in the U.K. over the next few years.

But the supermarket said it has no definite plans for the use of RFID tags on individual items.

"We are working with our business colleagues and suppliers to understand the future for item-level tagging at Tesco," the company said in a statement. "We believe there are number of areas where there are opportunities to develop an item-level solution. We have yet to identify a product area. However, any trials will be focused on high-value items and will be targeted at specific business and customer needs."

Andy McCue reported for Silicon.com in London.