New technology from SAP AG looks to help makers of consumer packaged goods comply with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.s requirement that its suppliers tag cases and pallets with RFID tags by January 2005.
SAP is developing a middleware framework to enable companies to integrate radio-frequency identification data from reader devices with enterprise software infrastructures, whether or not an infrastructure comes from SAP, company officials said.
At the same time, as an add-on to its Master Data Management module, SAP plans to release next year technology that enables users to expose RFID-associated data to the Internet as a Web service, said Raymond Blanchard, business development director of SAPs business solutions group for manufacturing.
SAPs first completely Java-based product, Auto-ID Infrastructure, is stand-alone middleware that can be deployed with or without an SAP back end, according to Blanchard. An integration component that sits on top of SAPs application server and incorporates the companys NetWeaver integration technology, the middleware applies a new data model to RFID data.
“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 rules 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 Auto-ID Infrastructure is a visibility portal and an event management application. The portal lets users view any Auto-ID information—tracking, out-of-stock, read dates and data accuracy rates, for example. The event manager helps users model expected RFID events, track and trace inventory moving through a supply chain, and analyze RFID data.
SAP will offer two predefined processes with Auto-ID Infrastructure: Shipping and Receiving, for scan-based tracking of RFID-tagged pallets, and Outbound Tracking, to enable users to track shipments to customers.
Auto-ID Infrastructure is in beta testing now at Procter & Gamble Co. SAP will launch the software next month at the National Retail Federation conference in New York. The company plans a limited release of Auto-ID Infrastructure in June and will make it generally available by the end of next year.