How RFID can be used to improve financial performance of a corporation
There has been much discussion in the last couple of decades around the topic of RFID. RFID in its simplest definition can be described as a system of identification where an electronic device uses radio frequencies or magnetic fields differences to communicate. As David Twist (Twist, 2005) observes in his study into the impact of RFID on supply chains, “Radio frequency identification or RFID has received much press of late, mainly due to the recent compliance mandates by many of the world’s largest retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, etc.) and Gillette’s reported purchase of 500 million units last year.” Much of the original research and literature on the topic of RFID is focused on its use within the retail and production sectors of commercial enterprise. For example, in an attempt to improve efficiency with inventory control retail companies like Marks and Spencer rolled out RFID technology into their products, allowing direct contract from the retail floor to many of its global suppliers. (Handfield & Ernest L Nichols, 2002)
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More recently the use of RFID technology has started to emerge in other areas in the corporate world. In particular, projects and proof of concepts are been conducted with the hope that RFID systems will bring potential benefits in the management of supply chains within Data Center operations. Today’s Data Centers are increasingly complex environments. Data Center executives need to have a clear understanding of their business to deliver predictive results. This means they need to know what assets they have on hand and where these assets are located. With the added pressure of market rules and regulations companies are being required “to deliver improved compliance and business performance” (Eid & Caldwell, 2007). This drive is shifting the allocation of IT budgets to compliance and corporate governance initiatives. (Eid & Caldwell, 2007). RFID’s commitment is to provide proactive inventory management, and auditing. It will enable IT organizations to align with regulatory requirements to ensure that they are able to provide accurate reports and minimize inventory errors that can be introduced by humans. RFID suppliers are moving to enable mass deployment of this technology with customers. Applied Business Intelligence has estimated that by 2008 RFID purchases will reach to 1.6 billion. (Williams, 2005a) This demand will force the RFID industry to create better technology and solutions and push the cost of a RFID tag to about 5 cents. (Williams, 2005a)
As stated above RFID technology is beginning to take shape in a number of different industries, such as financial markets Data Centers, who see this as a way of inventory management, efficient and accurate Supply Chain Management, and improved security of data.. In addition RFID’s objective is to create checks and balances that foster better control on inventory management and subsequently create higher value for the organization (Jones et al., 2005; Tan, 2007). This results in better visibility on asset inventory and ultimately affects the bottom line for a company. Some of the financial market organizations are starting to consider the use of RIFD. These organizations are co-developing RFID solutions for Data Center Operations with some of the leading software and hardware companies such as HP, IBM and SUN.
Data Center executive need the ability to accurately track their assets from the time the asset enters the data center to the time the asset leaves the data center. They are also interested in knowing if the asset moves within the data center. The use of RFID is fairly new in the Data Center environment. This early stage impacts the adoption rate because financial market data centers are serious about security particularly in accessing the data center floor and wireless data transmission.
The central focus of this paper is to provide further understanding on how RFID can be used to benefit data center organizations, predominantly in the financial sector. The paper will develop its focus on the major issues currently existing with RFID’s. In particular the paper will focus on how RFID can be implemented in Data Centers to provide similar benefits of managing and controlling inventory. The paper will also explore if data center executives have inventory management systems which can account for changes in the Data Center and update its financial systems accurately so do asset is left behind and charge backs on the use of devices is transferred to the business units. Having this type of system in place will create value for the company and ensure that company assets have a tighter control which ultimately has a positive affect on operational costs… It is anticipated that the conclusion of the research will add value to the existing literature concerning the benefits of RFID in financial data centers.
In addition the paper will also touch on the security and regulatory compliance issues, the research will evaluate whether the implementation of RFID will add value to the business and assess the potential benefits that it might bring to the corporation in terms of improvement to financial performance. To achieve this position, data collection and analysis will be completed from at-least two organizations that are anticipating the benefits as well as those that have already implemented the RFID systems. In the latter case it should be possible to secure a reasonable estimation of the results of RFID in a practical environment. Similarly, where the organizations used are public corporations, financial performance indicators are available from financial statements and reports that are publicly recorded through the company’s own websites and other online financial organizations such as FT.com.
The main objectives of this paper will be fulfilled by utilizing; the use of in person interviews, currently available case studies on RFID use and information from other data sources. The primary data will include direct interviews. To ensure that the objectives are met for this paper , this dissertation will focus on the need to provide further understanding regarding the current perceived major issues which surround the subject of RFID technology by addressing the following objectives:
By providing a brief history on the evolution of RFID it is anticipated that will enhance the understanding of the technology and its uses. In addition, this background will access the current uses of RFID and make an effort to identify its future development.
With its ability to track physical assets and inventory in real time, the paper will intend to answer the question as to whether the implementation of RFID improves IT Asset Management and promote financial performance of a corporation.
Having business intelligence is important in running an effective IT organization. Today’s complex data centers rely on their senior managers to make decision that impact the bottom line. RFID promises to provide information that can be acted and decided upon in a more efficient, effective and timely manner.
With any new technology being introduced into an organization there are always integration issues due to existing technology and company politics. It will be important to review this area to understand these issues. As an integral part of this research it is planned to evaluate the potential positive and negative impact that the implementation of RFID technology might have upon data and privacy protection.
The debate on RFID improving accuracy of financial information is starting to take shape with organization. The hope is that once all assets are tagged, RFID will provide better control on the asset’s lifecycle. Having this type of visibility will enable the finance team to obtain accurate information.
RFID is an enabler of other activities that can improve on IT Asset Management Activities. This can range from how IT assets are managed from a physical, financial and contractual perspective.
To ensure there is clarity on this paper the research has been organized in the following format. Chapter one will be an introductory chapter discussing the topic of RIFD and objectives of the paper. Chapter two will discuss the history on RFID technology. This background information will provide a good foundation and understanding of the current direction RFID is moving towards to satisfy the data center market. In addition chapter two will also discuss current and recent literature on RFID technology. This will cover literature pertaining to the current directional process of the RFID, its existing use within the retail and production sectors of commerce, and the application of this technology towards the commercial environment including the tracking of IT assets in data centers. Security and regulatory issues and other impact concerns will also be briefly touched upon in this chapter.
Chapter three will explain the research methodology that has been chosen for this study, outlining in detail what data has been relied upon in order to satisfy the aims and objectives of this study. This will include a detailed explanation of the basis and conduct of the questionnaires and interviews that were used for the purpose of collecting the primary data upon which the research conclusion has been based. Additionally, this chapter will show how this data has been collected, as well as provide an outline on how the research was carried out. In chapter four, the findings of the research completed will be presented and discussed in depth.
The findings from both the primary data interviews and questionnaires and secondary data sources will be presented in chapter four. Following this chapter a detailed discussion will be provided which will include the comparison of the primary data collected against other secondary data sources. It is anticipated that the primary data will be valid with the opportunity to identify other issues that have yet to be addressed within current academic research.
In the concluding chapter, number six, the results of the research will be drawn together and the resolution of the objectives that have been discussed previously in section 1.2 will be addressed. In addition and where appropriate, recommendations will be made that could help in addressing the issues which have been identified and also assist to set the target for future research.
The grass roots of Radio frequency identification (RFID) can be traced back to World War II when the Germans, Japanese, Americans, and British were utilizing radar to monitor aircraft activity. Since then RFID has made its way to an early and primitive version which was utilized in the 1950’s at the US Department of Agriculture to study the movement of cows (Hodges & McFarlane, 2004a) for health purposes. As the technology matured, the invention of RFID created an interest in the commercial world with the push to understand how this new technology could be used in business.
By the 1970’s commercial usage of RFID was introduced (Hodges & McFarlane, 2004a; Landt, 2001) which lead to the early development of the EAS system (Electronic Survilenace Systems). This system was used to help deter and counteract theft, particularly in the retail environment, such as clothing stores, books stores, and libraries. The technology also has seen much success in transportation control for toll collection as well as for tracking animals in farms. These successes positioned RFID to find itself at the door step of manufacturing companies to assist in automation of factory production processes (Hunt, Puglia & Puglia, 2007). In addition RFID is being used in Factories for inventory control within the business supply chain process. With this progressive footprint RIFD has also moved towards competing with barcode identification products. Unlike the barcode reader, RFID systems were seen to have a significant advantage in this area as, the RFID reader did not need a direct line of sight to work and the information on the tag could be changed. The barcode data is static and cannot be changed once it has been entered on the barcode itself (Hodges & McFarlane, 2004b). For additional information on the differences between RFID and Barcode please see Table 1.
The latter part of the 1990’s saw continued to growth in commercial usage and new RFID applications. RFID found popularity in use within airlines, for such tasks as baggage handling, road and other transport tolling, the retail market for inventory use, and in general it was beginning to be used increasingly for supply chain management purposes and asset tracking (Hodges & McFarlane, 2004a; Landt, 2001). In the last several years Supermarkets both in the US and UK have started to use RIFD during the introduction of automated and self checkouts.
While it seems that RFID has seen much success it has had its share of issues and competition from barcode technology. The main problem that affected the RFID systems during that time, and which ultimately hampered their use in more widespread applications, was the differences between the system characteristic. This meant that RFID were not universal, which led other RFIDs not working with RFID reader from other vendors and vice versa. This difficulty kept the system costs high (Hodges & McFarlane, 2004a) and deterred both the developer and commercial organizations from further investment. It was not until the ISO 18000 standards came into force to standardize these systems that RFID began to find more extensive uses (Ranky, 2006; Rees, 2004). This change led to significant cost reductions and the development of more comprehensive and complex RFID systems. As a result the current decade has seen RFID systems being extended into more areas of social control, such as ID cards, passports, credit cards, speed control systems and commercial areas of the supply chain. Recently RFID has started to emerge in corporate data centers. While the move into data centers is a positive sign it is moving at a conservative pace than other sectors. This is due to partly being a new technology, which has not fully ironed out technical, integration and business issues. While this is the case it still has prompted some active interest from the financial institutions.
Gartner Inc. is forecasting that the RFID market is positioned to achieve worldwide revenues in excess of $1.2 billion in 2008. This growth is about 31% over 2007 (Gaudin, 2008). Additionally Gartner Inc. sited in 2005 that RFID was embryonic with implementations only occurring in lab environments. Today in 2008 Gartner has stated that RFID is considered an emerging technology with high growth potential and create meaningful business benefits (Phillip Redman & Woods, 2005; Sylvain Fabre et al., 2008).
Figure 1. Hype Cycle for Wireless Networking Infrastructure, 2008 (Gartner, 2008)
As noted in the Hype Cycle figure provided by Gartner RFID is in it technology trigger phase and it is about 5 to 10 years away from being adopted as a mainstream technology. This means there is room for growth and improvement in this technology (Sylvain Fabre et al., 2008). Many company who have been looking with RFID are moving forward beyond the pilot phase and entering the “exploration phase” (Gaudin, 2008). As discussed previously, the growth of RFID is increasing at a rapid pace, with systems being introduced everywhere, (Yoder, 2006) from classrooms, for educational purposes, public control programs, such as tolling, to corporate security usage. It is with no surprise that RFID is attracting the attention of academics and other observers. This condition also accounts for the extensive levels of literature relating to both the theory of RFID and the variety of applications available from both a commercial and social viewpoint. In addition following a brief review of the other uses of RFID, there is literature available which is focused on the issues of RFID as they relate specifically to the corporate world, with particular attention being paid to their use within financial markets and their data centers.
Many researchers have indicated that one of the areas that seen a proliferation in the use of RIFD technology has been within the retail sector (Attaran, 2007; Birch, 2007a; Jones et al., 2005). RFID in the retail environment can perform numerous tasks, (Birch, 2007a) which includes tagging products to control product shrinkage, assist in streamlining and maintenance of inventory by having a direct connection with the suppler. In addition RFID can also assist in inventory accuracy, and reduction in out of stock inventory which can lead to consumers not purchasing an item, buying an item at another store, substitute for a different brand, or delay purchasing (Corsten & Gruen, 2003; DeHoratius & Raman, 2004; Langdoc, Garf & Suleski, 2006).
Today, RIFD technology used within the retail sector is relatively a simple process; the advantage is that it reduces the cost per unit to fractions of dollars. This is because unlike barcodes, RFID do not have to be product or item specific. They can be used over a wider range of business operations, (Chawathe et al., 2004) this is achieved by RFID’s product design and its sizing. For example, a major retailer like Wal-mart can use RFID systems not only to identify to the supplier current store stock levels, but also provide sufficient analysis information relating to consumer purchasing habits and needs. RFID can also improve the financial performance of the business. For example, with the development of a new RFID system which include EPC facilities, Wal-mart is expecting to make savings of $ billions each year (Birch, 2007b). This translates to additional low cost competitive advantage within the retail market sector.
The general consensus around RFID, with its real time access to data, has led to retailers experiencing added value being created to their businesses (Auramo, Kauremaa & Tanskanen, 2005; Ranadive, 2006; Schuster, Allen & Brock, 2006). In actual fact (Auramo, Kauremaa & Tanskanen, 2005) has identified the following benefits to retailers:
Table 1 Benefits of Real Time access to data
Irrespective of whether an organization is product or service orientated, every business will have a supply chain, even if each organization may have a slight variability within the supply chain. The essence in managing supply chain is to ensure that products move from their place of origination (the supplier) to the intended location (the store) to arrive at the required time. As (Birch, 2007c) comments in his study of the implications of RFID, the “three dimensional aspect of RFID (what were and when) makes it invaluable within the supply chain process,” a view which is also shared by other researchers (Hansen & Gilbert, 2008; Heizer & Render, 2006).
One of the major benefits derived from RFID systems is its movements towards the “real-time enterprise” (Drobik et al., 2002). Real-time enterprise should not be considered a technology definition rather a business process definition. However, technology is still needed to create this Real-time enterprise. Implementing this type of business model places the organization to manage its operations predictably. The CEO of Tibco Inc., Vivek Ranadive has coined the term “Predicative Business”. Maninging towards a predictive business model requires access to real time information. RFID is a clear example on using this technology to establish real-time information for business to operate their vital processes without delays. (Drobik et al., 2002; Handfield & Ernest L Nichols, 2002; Ranadive, 2006). To translate this into the retail environment it would mean that there will be no delays caused to the retailer in transmitting order requirements to the supplier because in many cases this information is communicated directly from the retail store to the supplier. Furthermore, the businesses at both ends of the supply chain can eliminate the need to produce and transmit any paperwork to each other; because the data is automaically transmitted electronically between the two supply chain points which ultimately promote a better and faster process.
RFID in the retail sector has created a positive impact which can be observed in the following areas. Firstly there is noticeable improvement in customer service because customers today have higher demands and expectation of being served in a faster manner. Secondly there is a cost advantage to the retailer. This advantage not only is seen in more efficient use of human assets, it also has an impact on the distribution and transportation process. As David Twist (Twist, 2005) indicated within his research that there are some analyst who belief that RFID could be instrumental in reducing the retailer and supplier need for warehousing space by up to 50% in the future. All of these anticipated cost reductions will also have the effect of increasing the financial performance of the business and thus the value returned to its owners and shareholders. It is therefore not surprising that some of the major of “retail chains” like Wal-Mart, Target and Tesco “are demanding their suppliers take on board these systems” (Williams, 2005b)
In an article published in 2007 Gartner Inc., noted that IT organization will be spending their budget dollars on initiatives that are aligned with Governance, Risk and Compliance. The compliance spending is being forced upon IT organization to show that they have their houses in order and can show business value for the company (Eid & Caldwell, 2007) This places a spotlight on IT Asset Management. IT Asset Management also known in the market as ITAM is an IT business process discipline which focuses on improving cost and provides more accurate picture of what value IT brings to the organization. This value can be measured by how IT organizations can establish visibility on the entire lifecycle of an asset.
Today’s data centers are much more complex and equipment dense due Moore’s Law of the ever shrinking computer. This means that data centers can hold more equipment today then they did 30 years ago when we only saw larger mainframe units in data centers. The data center market trends from 1980 to 2000 had been focused on IT Outsourcing and IT Centralization. Early 2000 we have started to that data centers have started to become more complex, and the focus is shifting on power management, cooling, virtualization, asset management, and data center efficiency. At this time the data centers are in a transition phase where they are looking initiatives that look at services delivery, risk management, reducing complexity from business processes, establish Real-time Infrastructure and autiomation and most importantly understand the cost of resources being deployed.
This progressive change in the data center has warranted IT organization to operate their data centers like a business. IT executives are measured on quality, cost of services, and compliance. Therefore, for IT to operate as a business with fiscal responsibility the management team need to consider such topics as IT budget management, cost center charge-backs to other business units on the use of IT assets and applications, regular IT audits on inventory and software to meet compliance requirements on Sarbanes-Oxley, understanding the financials of an asset, such as the purchase price, if the asset is on maintenance, and when the asset will be decommissioned. Ultimately this visibility enables the IT executives to be strategic for their business.
As noted in the previous chapter the drive towards creating a Real-time Enterprise has recently emerged in the last several years. It is important to note that Real-time Enterprise is not all about technology. It has more to do in driving initiatives that can remove unnecessary bottlenecks from business processes. IT Asset Management promotes that regular IT inventory and audits are completed to meet regulatory and financial requirements.
In large publicly traded companies IT leaders are being asked to provide accurate and timely information to support the regulatory requirements of finance. This can translate that IT organizations have to:
IT organizations have to be agile to responds to these requests as they come in especially in larger data centers where the rate of change is very high. There is a constant cycle of equipment being provisioned, installed, moved, redeployed and decommissioned. Conducting manual inventory and audits in large equipment dense data centers can make this effort costly and time consuming. This manual process will attempt to anticipate the rate of change in the data center; however it will not provide a 100% account of the inventory. Additionally by the time the inventory is completed the collected information is out dated and not 100% accurate due to frequent or daily change management activities in the data center. To add to this, completing data center inventory and audits can become an expensive proposition. Firstly today’s data centers are under high security, therefore typically the individuals who end up doing these inventories are highly paid individuals who have key roles within the data center and being asked to do level tasks. A typical salary of an IT professional fully burden is about $100,000 per year.
Talk about inventory, audit, people issues, cost issues, chargebacks, etc etc etc.
?The rapid expansion of the internet and the World Wide Web has created a significant impact in the volume of data centers being built. These data centers are holding the IT equipment and databases which many of the organization’s employees may need to access on a regular basis. Today data centers are faced with the issue of time and cost of tracking information about their physical assets. To make matters more complicated data center operations has to account for potential asset and data theft or misplacement, as well as the need for compliance with regultiry standards. This calls for sophisticated and effective tracking systems in place. This is especially true in the case of data centers that may be external to the organization such as a call center, which can increase the risk dramatically (Burgess & Connell, 2006), simply because of the fact that data is being held in different locations (Wyld, 2006).
Faced with this situation and the extensie amout of information that these cost center assets hold (Wyld, 2006) there is a need for data centers to employ robust systems that will assist with the process of data control and monitoring. Frank Lanza worldwide director of HP RFID Program states; “Physical inventory of IT assets is critical in data centers, especially those with thousands of devices” (HP.com, 2006). Frank Lanza also pointed out that the “HP RFID technology could enable better accuracy of inventory, increase security and reduce data center operational and auditing costs.” (HP.com, 2006). Lanza and others go on to promote the benefits of using RFID technology to address these issues, explaining that it provides “an automated method for collecting, organizing, sorting, displaying, and updating correct information” (DiBella, 2008).
Chapter three will outline the methodology chosen for performing the research as well as the reason why the method was used. This chapter includes an overview of the various methods available, and an explanation of their advantages and disadvantages of each as well as identifying the approaches of how all the data was collected and evaluated.
Understanding that this research paper is not about the mechanics of how RFID systems work in technical detail, rather it is focused on the affects o the usages that this technology was been applied to. The data collection for this study has focused on the academic theory and practical application of RFID systems within the corporate environment, as well as providing an assessment of the efficiency effectiveness of these systems following their implementation. Based on this it became important to choose a method of data and information that would ensure that the objectives of this study were met and also contributed value to the present academic and practical research that exists today (site site).
Fundamentally, all forms and models of data research will either fall into the category of secondary and primary (White, 2000). Secondary data research predominantly relies on the academic and practical research of others, where primary data in most cases is collected directly by the researcher. Before a method is chosen analysis needs to be completed on the advantages and limitation of these methods. Secondary data source has the advantage of provding a more extensive range of publications and opinions from diverse sources while having limitations. For example if one is using case studies they can have a restrictive sampling. In addition, the researcher does not have direct contact with the subject and is simply relying on the opinion and observations of others. Nevertheless, secondary data collection can be invaluable in assisting with understanding of the research subject and for the purpose of comparison and validation.
Primary data collection also has its limitations. Again the sampling element is an issue in that the response numbers replied have to be sufficiently robust to ensure that they can be relied upon and that the method of collection, for example the quality of the questions, is sufficiently relevant to the subject matter. Primary data collection is also subject to other constraints, such as time, cost and geographical locations. For example, in one needed a survey that involved collection of data from a representative sample throughout the US, this would present the research with geographical, time and cost difficulties if this collection were being performed through the use of an interview.
Taking into account these conditions, the method chosen for this paper was that of primary data. This method would also rely on the collection and use of secondary data. There were a number of reasons for this choice. The main consideration was that, although there is a reasonable level of data relating to the use of RFID in a supply chains and data centers, there is little that is specifically linked to the use of RFID in the financial sector. Therefore the research was completed by collecting data from direct responses of the employees who are directly responsible for the decision, implementation and operation of RFID systems. In addition secondary data was used to add value of the primary findings.
The collection of primary data is based on the use of questionnaires and direct interviews. It was consideration that this combination would add depth and vaule to the findings through the use of these two alternative methods (White, 2000).
There were ten questions chosen for the final questionnaire, which combined the use of open and close method of design. The survey was designed to capture simple response such as department and position, where were closed questions the others were multiple choices. In addition, space was provided to allow the respondents to make additional comments where they felt it was appropriate. As anticipated, by working closely with a representative of the organizations, the level of response rate was higher than would normally be expected with 56 of 85.
To support and enhance the findings from the questionnaire, three interviews were conducted and the transcripts of these is attached to this study (appendix 2 and 3).
How the design was implemented? Changes made to the design in the course of the implementation. How was the data collected? How was the implementation tested? Typically code listings, screen shots and test runs will appear as appendices
Description of the results followed by their review. These may include, where appropriate, feedback from test groups, users and the project sponsor.
A summary of the project as a whole. Lesson learned. Possible applications and extensions of the work
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This section shows how to start an appendix and how to illustrate tables and figures. These are extracts from actual material. In this particular project dissertation, a large part of the project was carried out on the web. Some of these particular appendices were abridged accounts that supported the thesis without requiring on-line access for the material and that allowed a print version to be self-contained.
Latest version: <https://TROSTing.org/info/2005/08/i050803b.htm> provides the latest material on the TROST Pattern Description Approach.
Version:0.30 <https://TROSTing.org/info/2005/08/i050803e.htm> is the version of the approach that this appendix is based on.
Table 2 RFID vs Barcode
The pattlet format is convenient for determining whether it is promising to examine the complete pattern description.
Pattlets are also convenient as summaries of patterns having detailed descriptions provided elsewhere. In that case, the summary saves the reader from having to track down additional sources simply to see how the pattern is being applied in an immediate situation. The pattlet is a summary-level stand-in and connection to further detail.
The following table illustrates the complete set of subtopics currently identified in the Pattern-Description Template.
Table 3 Full Pattern-Description Organization
1. Identification 1.1 Name 1.2 Version 1.3 Summary 1.4 Also Known As 1.5 Type 1.6 Archetype 1.7 Keywords 2. Situation 2.1 Perspectives 2.2 Context 2.3 Applicability 2.4 Indications
3. Intention 3.1 Intent 3.2 Background 4. Concerns 5. Approach 5.1 Key Statement 5.2 Rationale 5.3 Prerequisites 5.4 Sketches 5.5 Detail 5.6 Models 5.7 Diagrams
6. Realization 7. Considerations 7.1 Testing 7.2 Safety/Failure 7.3 Deployment 7.4 Security 7.5 Operations 7.6 Usability 7.7 Support/Repair 7.8 Performance/Scale 7.9 Trustworthiness
8. Consequences 8.1 Benefits 8.2 Limitations 8.3 Trade-Offs 8.4 Risks 8.5 Next Challenges 9. Usage 9.1 Known Examples 9.2 Variants 9.3 Related Patterns 10. Sources 10.1 References 10.2 Contributors 10.3 Attribution
This Appendix is included to show how section numbering is preserved in the Appendices, how figures are captioned and cross-referenced, and to verify that the table of contents is still being correctly produced.
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