After making a range of moves last year toward bolstering RFID adoption, network specialist VeriSign Inc. is now working with epcGlobal on future RFID security improvements, while also consulting enterprises about which business processes to RFID-enable in the interests of quicker ROI.
VeriSign started out 2004 by announcing that it had nailed down a contract with RFID standards body epcGlobal for running root directory services that allow the use of RFID tag data on large networks.
Now, also in collaboration with epcGlobal, VeriSign is developing future enhancements meant to make RFID more tamper-proof at levels that include “the [RFID] tag, the device and data sharing between tags,” said Paul Strzelec, director of marketing for VeriSign Directory Services, in an interview with eWEEK.com.
Meanwhile, the vendor has identified a couple of ways to help speed ROI from RFID. One effective approach consists of sophisticated “cross-docking” applications, in which products are traced all the way from manufacturing through distribution centers and retail stores, Strzelec said.
VeriSign is currently working on cross-docking applications with two large retailers in Europe, in addition to customers elsewhere. “I guess you could say were doing solutions consulting. And these solutions are available, here and now,” he said.
Another approach—possibly advantageous to pharmaceutical and food manufacturing firms, for instance—calls for the use of RFID in gaining “proof of delivery” benefits.
“This will give [a product] a pedigree, to show where its sourced from,” he said. In the UK, for instance, food manufacturers might obtain proof of delivery to show theyre in compliance with beef regulations.
Over the next three to six months, Strzelec expects that some customers will start adding merchandising and marketing processes to the RFID applications mix.
“Its a significant problem in building affinity when you put a lot of effort into promoting a product, but then, when [the shopper] gets there, the product is out of stock. Some of your business just walked away. So RFID is starting to get more attention from merchandisers and marketers,” he said.
VeriSigns RFID announcements last year also included a joint demo with Nokia around possible consumer-oriented RFID applications, along with plans in the areas of outsourcing Internet-based RFID networking for enterprise customers and support for RFID application development.
Through the fee-based outsourcing program, dubbed the EPC Starter Service, VeriSign is hosting EPC Network services for interested users who are rolling out RFID pilots.
On the EPC Network, every company will ultimately have a server running its own ONS (Object Naming Services), as well as EPC-IS (EPC-Information Services) servers containing data about their own products. The ONS servers will send lookup requests for EPC numbers to the EPC-IS servers. Companies will be permitted to either run their own EPC-IS services or to outsource these services.
As Strzelec sees it, RFIDs ONS services are similar to the DNS (Domain Naming Services) VeriSign already operates on the Internet through its data centers. “We run the intelligent infrastructure for .com and .net [Internet domains],” he said.
VeriSigns pilot demo with Nokia focused on futuristic scenarios that would let consumers access RFID data from cell phones. Nokias 5140 phone already comes with an RFID reader.
Eventually, however, consumers might actually access this information from other platforms, too, ranging from PCs in home offices to “flat monitors in the kitchen,” Strzelec told eWEEK.com.
From the kitchen, for instance, consumers might use the RFID data to link to contextual information such as recipes. “People will be able to decide, Can I use this [product] with the stuff I have in the fridge?”
VeriSign issued last years announcement of the EPC Application Developers Program in conjunction with IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and BEA. Through the program, Web services are used to enable free use of EPC development services.
“Out strategy is to target three main groups of developers here,” according to Strzelec. One group consists of corporate developers. “They want to [find out] things like how their ERP [enterprise resource planning] applications will be impacted by RFID, how people will interact with RFID, and whether RFID will work.”
ISVs constitute a second target group. “Companies who build global supply chain and warehousing applications know they should upgrade their applications for RFID, and they want to find out how,” he said
A third group is made up of “very creative developers” who are planning applications expressly for RFID.
VeriSign plans hold its own EPC Developers Conference, which will be co-located with the RFID Journal Live show in Chicago in April.
“Somewhere around then, youll probably hear some announcements from us about new [RFID] security enhancements,” Strzelec told eWEEK.com.