Sun Unveils RFID Platform for Manufacturers

Also in the works are Java-based RFID reference architectures for pharmaceutical, retail, defense and other verticals. Sun is teaming up with ISV partners such as Provia Software and SeeBeyond.

The Sun RFID ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) for Manufacturing, released this week at RFID World, is slated to be followed by other RFID (radio-frequency identification) reference architectures from Sun Microsystems Inc. geared to supply chain applications in the pharmaceutical, retail, government and defense markets.

Suns RFID ISA for Manufacturing is targeted mainly at CPG (consumer product goods) makers that are working with Suns services arm to build WMS (warehouse management systems) with advance shipment notification, said Vivek Khandelwal, senior product manager for Suns RFID Business Unit, in an interview with

Last October, Sun rolled out the RFID ISA for Retail.

But although Sun still plans to release its RFID reference architecture for the retail space, Suns previously unannounced ISA for Manufacturing has actually beat its retail counterpart to completion, said the senior product manager.

Each of Suns RFID reference architectures is being produced with a different third-party partner.

Sun is teaming up with Provia Software on the manufacturing ISA and with SeeBeyond on the retail ISA, for example.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns RFID deal with SeeBeyond.

Khandelwal told that the manufacturing ISA is aimed at companies that need to comply with RFID mandates from customers such as Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense, but that are striving at the same time to derive other business benefits from RFID.

The ISA for Manufacturing calls for the use of Provias ViaWare Warehouse Management System; Sun Java System RFID Software; integration middleware; a Printonix RFID printer; and an RFID reader.

These products come with Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition-enabled interfaces for system integration, according to Khandelwal.

Sun also provides guidelines specifying which interfaces and product versions to use.

Sun might also consider sharing the ISA with third-party integrator partners, he said.

Suns reference platforms can be used with applications involving multiple warehouses and other facilities. Moreover, the Sun Java RFID Software can be enabled for use with sensor applications outside of RFID, according to the Sun executive.

"The ISAs are being driven by Suns [sales] field force. Manufacturing, retail, government and defense are some of the prime areas for RFID [customer] implementations right now," Khandelwal said.

Aside from the manufacturers ISA released this week, these other ISAs are in various stages of completion.

Khandelwal said Sun is now in the process of negotiating partnership deals around several of the future ISAs.

He said he expects that one of the other ISAs will be released by the first quarter of 2006.

"Were also looking at doing ISAs for other sorts of [RFID] applications, such as transportation. But these are much further away right now," he said.

As Khandelwal sees it, Suns major competition in the RFID arena is IBM Corp.

"There might be other [vendors] that have RFID middleware and services, but IBM is the only one with expertise and experience in RFID implementations and vertical markets similar to Suns," he told

Also at RFID World, IBM is announcing that Royal Philips Electronics Semiconductor Division in Asia has deployed an RFID solution based on IBM WebSphere software and services.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about IBMs RFID middleware, click here.

In Philips RFID project, the IBM solution is being used for tagging and tracing wafer cases and carton packages sent between a manufacturing facility in Taiwan and a distribution center in Hong Kong.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.