Sun Boosts Support for RFID

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-09-19 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

New business unit dedicated to helping Sun customers, partners develop software and hardware solutions for the use of RFID.

Another major enterprise IT vendor has further embraced the move toward using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in manufacturing and retailing. Sun Microsystems Inc. this week announced that it has formed a business unit dedicated to helping customers and partners to develop software and hardware solutions for the use of RFID. At least one piece of new software is already slated for release in March to help bolster the effort, officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., company said Sun is calling the new group the Auto-ID business unit, in reference to standards work occurring in the Auto-ID Center, a consortium of 100 corporations and six research universities promoting the use of RFID.
During its first Electronic Product Code Symposium being held in Chicago this week, the Auto-ID Center unveiled the first release of the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network, a set of technology specifications and requirements for using RFID as an identifier in products so they can be traced throughout the supply chain. IBM also launched a service at the show to help companies put RFID into place.
With its new business unit, the company is working to develop full product sets—including hardware, software and services—in conjunction with partners to allow enterprise to link into the EPC Network and use RFID, said Julie Sarbacker, named the director of the business unit. Programs for both customers and partners should be launching within the next couple months, she said. Sun has been working with the Auto-ID Center since 2000 and is involved in pilot projects for using RFID technology in product tracking. Through RFID, manufacturers could embed RFID tags with a miniscule computer chips and antennae into products to better track their movement through the supply chain. The tags, often inactive themselves, respond with identification information when radio waves are sent to them from readers that could be in a store or warehouse.
Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software at Sun, made the decision to form the group, Sarbacker said. The time had come for a business unit to focus on RFID issues as companies begin piloting and planning deployments of the technology, Sarbacker said. Most notably, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in June said that its 100 top suppliers must use RFID tags in products pallets and cases by January of 2005. "The market drivers are happening now," she said, "Especially with the Wal-Mart mandate, thats putting a lot of pressure on the top 100 suppliers." Sun already has previewed its own version of Savant, an EPC Network middleware technology for managing the flow of RFID information between the readers of RFID tags and back-end enterprise system, said Vijay Sarathy, product line manager for Sun Auto ID infrastructure solution. Suns Savant software is based on the EPC Network technology but adds features for quality of service and dynamic provisioning of resources so that RFID information could still flow despite a reader or back-end computing resources failing. Sun plans announce the release of its Savant software in March, he said. Discuss this in the eWeek forum.
 
 
 
 
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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