Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Amazon turns to Auburn laboratory to help with RFID implementation

Steve Rogerson
June 4, 2015
Amazon has announced a joint project with Auburn University's recently opened RFID laboratory to explore the business case for the implementation of RFID within the Amazon supply chain.
"RFID is a fascinating technology,” said Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president, at the official opening of the Alabama-based laboratory. “As part of this joint project, we are excited to invent new processes and technology using RFID to enhance the experience for customers through better inventory predictability, faster delivery and, ultimately, lower cost. The collaboration presents a unique opportunity for students, faculty and industry to come together in a hands-on and fast-moving real world environment."
The laboratory specialises in the business case and technical implementation of radio frequency identification technology in retail, supply chain and manufacturing settings. It will draw on the expertise in Auburn University's Raymond J Harbert College of Business, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, College of Human Sciences and College of Agriculture. In moving to Auburn University, the lab was reunited with its founder, Harbert College of Business dean Bill Hardgrave. Hardgrave helped launch the lab at the University of Arkansas in 2005.
Even though its location has changed, the lab has continued to work with leading retail, supply chain, manufacturing and technology companies.
"As the RFID industry expands, it's important to have as many users engaged in the lab as possible as lessons from one industry often hold true for others," said Auburn University RFID Lab director Justin Patton. "Having unique retail partners like Amazon engaged in the lab allows us to focus on the research questions that are most crucial to many different users, and add the academic validation that helps bring maturity to the evolving market."
Amazon has used RFID technology in its fulfilment centres, the massive facilities where customer orders are picked from shelves, moved on conveyers and loaded onto trucks for rapid shipping and delivery. Founded in 1994 and based in Seattle, the company's footprint includes more than 100 fulfilment centres worldwide.
Located in a former supermarket, the 1200-square metre laboratory provides simulated retail, grocery and convenience store space, as well as warehouse and distribution centre environments. It established the first RFID tagged item certification programme to assist retail product manufacturers. RFID technology uses computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to aid in the wireless tracking of items.