IBM announced today that it would provide systems integration for a radio frequency identification (RFID) project to be deployed by Dusseldorf, Germany-based Metro Group, the world’s fifth-largest retailer. The project is scheduled to begin in November 2004.

Initially, 100 suppliers will tag all pallets and transport crates for delivery to 10 of Metro's central warehouses and to 250 stores. Metro Group has 2300 locations in 28 countries.

“We see RFID as a crucial technology for the future of retailing,” said Dr Gerd Wolfram, Project Manager of the Metro Group Future Store Initiative, in a statement.

The first step in the project is the establishment of an RFID test laboratory, which will allow suppliers to test their readiness for RFID while evaluating emerging technologies. The RFID technology allows retailers to track inventory and store related data wirelessly through the use of “smart tags.”