A new Web-based service supported by Boeing, Chicago, and Airbus, Toulouse, France, is making it easier for their supply chains to design and tag parts and shipments with readable radio-frequency identification labels (RFID). The service, called Antenna, was developed by Sopheon, a software and services company, Bloomington, Minn., and Siemens Business Services, an information technology service provider, New York, N.Y.. Antenna is a subscription-based service that gives engineers and procurement teams access to up-to-date RFID standards, operating procedures, best practices and other data, selected by Boeing, Airbus, and Siemens.
Kenneth Porad, program manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes' automated identification program, says, "Airbus and Boeing have a common goal of facilitating implementation of RFID across the aviation industry." He expects the Antenna service will become the industry's platform for RFID standardization.
Jens Heitmann, senior manager, systems standardization, process and methods at Airbus, explains Antenna lets airlines, parts suppliers, regulatory agencies and third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul shops use a single resource for access to the latest RFID standards and information, including procedures and practices defined by Airbus and Boeing.
Developing RFID is standards can be problematic because the technology has many variables. Metal reflects radio frequencies and water absorbs them. Each of its frequency ranges have different properties including how far away they can be read and how quickly data is transferred. All of these factors need to be considered when designing new products or tags for high-speed conveyors, says Joe Dunlap, senior business development manager, Siemens One. Packaging companies in the aviation supply chain can use Antenna to aid in the development and placement of RFID tags on packages and pallets to ensure compliance and certification with their partners.
"The reality is that RFID is an old technology trying to be used in new ways," Dunlap says. "For the past 20 years, we have been using RFID in closed-loop situations, for example within companies and between companies and their select suppliers. Now, companies, like Wal-Mart, are expanding its use." For example, he explains, companies like UPS or FedEx use it to track their vehicles. "The trucks are their own assets that they control, so the companies don't need to use standards. However, once that asset is trying to be read by another company using a different RFID reader than the company that owns or created the asset, problems arise. The data on the tags cannot be read. What we are trying to do [with Antenna], is create [RFID] standards that work in multiple applications across the extended enterprises and supply chains."