RFID coming to scooters, diapers

IBM's RFID tracking software finds its way into an Italian scooter plant and plastic wrap that will track tampering of consumer goods.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
Italian scooters and baby diapers could have a common link soon: embedded RFID tags tracking their whereabouts.

IBM plans to announce Wednesday that it has won two new customers for its radio frequency identification tracking software--an Italian subsidiary of Honda Motor and packaging maker Pliant.

Honda Italia Industriale, which sold 12.7 million scooters last year, plans to use RFID chips and IBM software to track motorcycle parts and tools circulating within its manufacturing plant in Atessa, Italy.

Pliant, based in Schaumburg, Ill., will sell a new RFID-embedded plastic wrap to consumer-goods companies that want to detect any tampering of their products in transit from manufacturer to distributor. Pliant is using IBM's software to keep track of RFID-marked cargo--everything from cereal boxes to diapers--in the warehouse.

"The goal of this program is to commercialize practical and cost-effective bulk packaging solutions that incorporate RFID technology," said Doug Lilac, Pliant's Technical Director for Innovation.

The news is a boon to IBM and an industry still in its early stages. While RFID tags are gaining ground in certain sectors--aircraft maker Boeing is tracking parts with the chips--many manufacturers and retail giants are reluctant to adopt the technology based on still-steep costs associated with the tags and potential consumer-privacy concerns.

RFID tags are computer chips placed on products, whether individually or in containers, to track the movement of those products. Sensors read the tags to monitor shipments and send alerts on conditions, like temperature and exposure to light, as well as on GPS (Global Positioning System) latitude and longitude.

The news comes a month after IBM introduced new software called WebSphere RFID Information Center, which helps manufacturers and distributors share data from the tracking tags.