Subsystems, BearingPoint Team on RFID

Professional services firm BearingPoint and Subsystem
Technologies will team up to go after RFID jobs for the U.S. Army, the
companies said on Wednesday.

The news follows BearingPoint’s award of a blanket purchase agreement
(BPA) for RFID by the Information Technology, E-Commerce and Commercial
Contracting Center, the contracting authority for all Army purchasing.
BearingPoint was one of 12 companies awarded BPAs.

Subsystems will provide engineering and technical work for BearingPoint’s passive RFID projects as contracts are awarded under the BPA.

Such partnerships indicate that the RFID industry is moving into a new,
more mature phase, as vendors broaden their focus to include full
integration of RFID with end-users’ business systems, according to ABI
research analyst Erik Michielsen. In a new study released on Wednesday, he
wrote that the construction of large, high-value integrated RFID systems is
driving large integration firms to find appropriate partners for different
markets.

BPAs are like fishing licenses, said Subsystems’ CEO Sam Malhotra.

“Now
that you have the fishing license, you can go fish in this world called the
U.S. Army RFID world. It’s a weeding-out process, and only the top companies
they deem technically qualified and responsible get the contract.”

The U.S. government was an early adopter of RFID, and, as one of the
nation’s top purchasers, it was among those mandating that suppliers begin
tagging shipments by the beginning of 2005. The RFID BPA program is an
attempt to standardize its systems, said Tim Kreps, director of RFID systems
for Subsystems.

“Even though the government was an early adopter, it likes to
standardize,” Kreps said. “The Department of Defense memos all said, ‘We
realize all that all our different departments are working with RFID, we
realize how important it is. But, wait.'”

The BPA process was designed to define the technologies and systems for
use by the Army.

“One business problem the government was facing is that many vendors have
their own technology they wanted to sell,” Malhotra said. “The government
wanted to make sure that any technology coming into the Department of
Defense was standardized. They came up with spectrum of technologies that
are acceptable.”

Twenty-year-old Subsystems, based in Rosslyn, Va., specializes in such
government work, offering program management support, information assurance
and security, and IT and system engineering services.

Clients include the
Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security and the
Federal Aviation Administration.

Recently, Subsystems designed, developed and implemented an emergency
personnel evacuation and tracking system for the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval
Warfare systems center. It’s now in the test phase for an asset management
system for supplies being shipped to Iraq.

“When we ship a container abroad, we know exactly what’s in it when it
leaves our docks,” Kreps said. “But when the container gets into a theater
like Iraq and a supply sergeant opens it, it’s complete chaos.”

Kreps said
he wasn’t allowed to talk about the project in detail, except to say that it
uses RFID and middleware to both provide a means of knowing what’s in a
container and where it’s stored, as well as to enable easy re-ordering of
supplies as they’re used up or destroyed.

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