IBM, Microsoft Invest in RFID Despite Lull

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2005-06-13

With initial RFID deadlines from retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. past, the fervor around the electronic tagging technology is quieting—in part because of the elusive benefits of radio-frequency identification data.

The lull, however, has done little to slow investments in the technology by major software developers IBM and Microsoft Corp., both of which have new RFID technologies in the works.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will announce this week several initiatives including new software packages for enterprise companies around RFID business processes; an RFID security consulting practice to help users understand what data they are collecting, how it will be handled and who will have access to it; and an RFID printer that can print tags and identify unreliable RFID labels.

Separately, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., announced last week its intent to develop an RFID architecture.

To help companies implement compliance-based RFID software more quickly, IBM is making sample code from its WebSphere RFID Premises Server available. The code is based on common RFID processes that help to reconcile orders, generate shipping reports and provide pallet verification and inventory status.

As a Wal-Mart supplier, electronics manufacturer American Power Conversion Corp., of West Kingston, R.I., started looking at the feasibility of an RFID implementation about a year and a half ago. The company is evaluating IBMs RFID middleware—particularly the functionality related to pallet verification and dock door receiving.

"The pallet software allows me to aggregate all [product] IDs to the pallet," said Rich Morrissey, APCs director of e-business. "Today, there arent a lot of companies having success with 100 percent tag reads going through the door on pallets."

Due in the first half of next year, Microsofts yet-to-be-named RFID architecture will include a device management capability that users can manage from their Windows environments and an event management engine that aggregates, validates and abstracts data and events for integration into business processes. The event management engine will run on Microsofts .Net Framework, while any RFID service integration will come from Microsofts BizTalk Server.

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