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Manugistics tunes in radio ID tags

The software maker releases a version of its business applications software that's designed to take advantage of a new inventory-tracking technology that's known as RFID.

Software maker Manugistics has released a new version of its business applications software that's designed to take advantage of an emerging inventory-tracking technology that's known as radio frequency identification, the company said Monday.

The Rockville, Md.-based company said the updated software, which is intended to help manufacturers coordinate the production of goods, can use data radio frequency identification (RFID) systems collect to closely monitor the delivery of merchandise and supplies to factories, warehouses and stores.

RFID is an experimental technology that uses tiny devices to monitor the location of all kinds of objects--everything from car tires to clothing. Major retailers and consumer goods companies, including Wal-Mart and Gillette, have been testing the technology for the past few years and are just beginning to deploy it more broadly.

RFID is being hailed as a next-generation bar code that promises to reduce labor-intensive manual inventory scanning and tackle perennial business problems such as shoplifting, inventory shortages and logistical errors.

Manugistics--which competes with i2 Technologies, Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP--said the new RFID-ready software is part of its "adaptive planning" programs, a set of applications that are designed to detect and resolve logistical glitches. The company cited recent decisions by Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense to expand their RFID projects as one of the reasons it is focusing on this emerging area.

Industry experts estimate that demand for RFID-related products and services will create a new $3 billion to $10 billion market in the next five years. Seeing dollar signs, many information technology companies are making RFID a focus of their research and development efforts. IBM announced new RFID consulting services and software products last month. Others hoping to tap the anticipated wave of RFID technology spending include Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.