Symbol Technologies and Vue Technologies announced this week that the two companies would jointly develop integrated item-level radio frequency identification solutions for both the retailing and manufacturing sectors.

The solutions will integrate Vue’s RF networking technology and electronic product code (EPC) management software with Symbol’s fixed and handheld readers, tags and peripheral devices.

Alan Melling, senior director of business development for Symbol Technologies, said retailers are beginning to see the value of item-level RFID. “Previously, they didn’t think they could afford to tag items. We’re not saying item-level RFID is going to sweep the market, but now there may be a business case for selected items,” he said.

While it doesn’t make financial sense to tag very inexpensive items, certain items, such as DVDs and clothing, make perfect sense, according to Melling. For instance, if a DVD of a popular performer is not in its proper position in a sales rack, an interested customer might not be able to find it and the sale is lost. A similar result occurs when a pair of jeans in one size is placed on a shelf corresponding to another size.

“The distinguishing factors are the cost of the item and how much of a problem on-shelf availability of the product is,” Melling said.

Item-level RFID also helps retailers control internal shrinkage, Melling said, as product sometimes gets diverted on its journey from the warehouse to the sales floor. “This system can help determine red flags,” Melling said. “It will give more retailers more information that can be used to determine anomalies.”

The Vue/Symbol system uses antenna multiplexing to enable a single reader to process input from “hundreds of antennas,” Melling said. “Traditional systems use a reader for every eight antennas.” The multiplexing capability helps to drive down both deployment and operational costs, he said.

In other news, Symbol announced that California-based Daughters of Charity Health system, a regional network of hospitals and medical centers, would deploy the company’s wireless network infrastructure and mobile computers. The mobile computers will be used in areas where patient rooms have limited space for equipment.