RFID: price no longer the limiting factor with tags

But overwhelming amounts of data to crunch may well still be an issue, says BEA

The cost of radio TAGS IS NO longer the inhibiting factor when it comes to adopting radio-frequency -identification (RFID), says Laxman Bhatia, regional manager of vertical markets for Asia-Pacific at BEA.

Simple “passive” tags are now available for one US cent each.

Instead, the big costs and potential deterrent implementing RFID lie in interfacing it to the enterprise information system in an appropriate way, he says.

Filtering the huge volume of information that will become available in applications as diverse as retailing, supply-chain control, tracking of hospital patients or prisoners and levying of commuting and parking charges will be the next stumbling block.

Asset tracking is another relatively straightforward application, he says, particularly the tracking of “reusable assets” like pallets and shopping carts, which may go off site and return.

“The real heavy lifting is in the enterprise information system,” says Bhatia.

A well-managed RFID system will interface to all pertinent applications, including legacy code, he says.

BEA is participating in the EPCGlobal (Electronic Product Code) vision of an “internet of things”, where individual items (or vehicles or people) have individual codes — in contrast to the visual retail barcoding system, where similar items carry the same product code.

Businesses face a real challenge in filtering and managing the huge volume of data that will result and building useful information from it, Bhatia says. “Do they have the capacity to store and transmit that quantity of data?”

One strong message is that the data coming from RFID must be fully integrated into enterprise information systems. “Make the decision; these are the [data] objects I need to manage, optimise or eliminate from my processes.” Above all, he says, “Don’t create another data silo.”

In this respect, RFID applications dovetail well with BEA’s service-oriented architecture direction in its Aqualogic set of infrastructure products. These aim to marshal data across silos and turn it into useful enterprise-wide information services. RFID data is just one more input to be organised in this way, says Bhatia.

BEA recently acquired product--numbering specialist ConnecTerra.

BEA’s primary contribution to the RFID effort to date has been a software engine to convert RFID inputs into “application level events” (ALE). ALE is a standard data object at the mid-level of the EPC Global “stack”, which defines the flow of data from RFID tags into the enterprise system. Event records are stored in an EPC information system (EPCIS) database.

EPC Global’s standards permit interoperability among vendors, Bhatia says.

“I would like to say they will be long-lived and will be embraced by our competitors.”

Bell travelled to Sydney courtesy of BEA

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