SAP AG is entering the radio frequency identification (RFID) technology gambit, in a big way.
The Walldorf, Germany-based company is in development with its Auto-ID Infrastructure that provides a middleware framework to enable companies to integrate RFID data from readers into their SAP and non-SAP environments, according to Raymond Blanchard, business development director of SAPs business solutions group for manufacturing.
At the same time, as an add-on to its Master Data Management module, SAP plans to release, sometime next year, technology that enables users to expose RFID-associated data to the Internet as a Web service, Blanchard said.
In beta with Proctor & Gamble now, SAP will launch Auto-ID next month at the National Retail Federation conference in New York City. The company plans a partial release of the product in June of 2004, and general availability is expected by the end of 2004.
SAPs first completely Java-based product, the Auto-ID Infrastructure breaks down into a stand-alone middleware platform that can be deployed with or without an SAP backend, according to Blanchard. The integration component sits on top of SAPs application server and incorporates the companys NetWeaver integration technology.
However, SAPs RFID middleware is a new data model, according to Blanchard.
"It does all the associations of business-relevant or application-relevant information to the RFID data, so we know what data to take and make use of inside the application," said Blanchard, in Palo Alto, Calif. "Its a full technology, with our own data model and business rule engine that synchronizes with SAPs master data and non-SAP master data. It can publish and subscribe data on its own and it does a lot of the low-end filtering and management of data from readers."
Included in the Infrastructure is a visibility portal and an event management application. The portal allows users to view any Auto-ID information–tracking, out-of-stock, read dates and data accuracy rates, for example. The event manager application helps users model expected RFID events, track and trace inventory that moves through a supply chain, and analyze RFID data.
SAP will offer two initial processes with the Infrastructure: Shipping and Receiving for scan-based tracking of RFID tagged pallets; and Outbound Tracking that enables users to track shipments to customers.
In the future, SAP will look to provide RFID processes around manufacturing and mobile solutions for field services.