Reva Systems

METRO Moves RFID Pilot to Production, Taps Reva

METRO Moves RFID Pilot to Production, Taps Reva
Tuesday June 26th, 2007:
Reva Systems announced today that its Tag Acquisition Processor technology (TAP) has been selected by METRO Group as part of the giant German retailer's recent decision to go from pilot to production with its RFID deployment. "This is the real thing," Reva chairman and co-founder Ashley Stephenson told RFID Update. "METRO has pulled the big lever for production RFID." Upon completion, it will represent the largest production RFID deployment in Europe to date.

Initially METRO will roll out RFID at about 200 German locations in total, including Cash & Carry supermarkets, Real hypermarkets, and the distribution centers that serve them. The number of readers installed at each location will vary; smaller, more remote locations might have just one, while some of the larger facilities could receive as many as 20. In addition, all locations will have a Reva TAP appliance, the company's flagship product (see Reva Releases Reader Management Device).

A number of the METRO locations are already up and running with RFID, and more are being equipped at a rate of roughly ten per week. "We're well on the way," said Stephenson. "This is not a future announcement. Over the next few months it will all be completed." In May METRO communicated its RFID ramp-up plans to about 650 suppliers at a meeting in Düsseldorf.

The deployment will use Gen2 RFID technology. Tagged goods will be read upon receipt at the stores and distribution centers, and the data will pass through Reva's TAP and up to METRO's corporate location, where it will be processed in real time. Instructions will then be dispatched back from corporate as necessary so that, for example, an individual unloading a tagged pallet is alerted immediately if some special action should be taken. This centralized, real-time decision-making ability is quite progressive and distinguishes METRO's deployment from those of its counterparts. "This is not just a data collection story," emphasized Stephenson. "The real-time nature of the deployment is a differentiator between this and what some other folks have done." Reva works with a number of other large retailers in addition to METRO.

Another distinctive characteristic of the deployment is the degree to which RFID has been integrated within METRO's enterprise. "They've totally integrated this into their business operations," explained Stephenson. Contrast that to other cases in which RFID is deployed as an island, totally detached from an enterprise's processes and systems.

The role of Reva's TAP appliance is multifaceted. It comprises the so-called "network infrastructure layer," which means that it handles everything from managing a location's RFID readers to converting raw tag data into actionable information to determining tag location by eliminating the conflict caused when two readers simultaneously register the same tag. The TAP also facilitates the scaling of a deployment as read volume increases and additional readers are installed. "We've tested to very high numbers to make sure that things would scale for years to come," Stephenson assured.

The TAP is based on EPCglobal standards that address how the RFID infrastructure layer should operate. This adherence to standards was particularly attractive to METRO.

Founded in 2004, Massachusetts-based Reva has 40 employees. It has received two rounds of funding totaling $20 million. The Series A was from venture capital firms North Bridge Venture Partners and Charles River Ventures. Series B saw those two firms return, joined by Cisco and SAP.

METRO's move from pilot to production is welcome news indeed, representing a material commitment to RFID adoption by the fourth largest retailer in the world that has long been a high-profile early adopter of the technology. In Stephenson's words, "Announcements like this make us very optimistic for the future of RFID."