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April 10, 2005

Sybase gears up RFID infrastructure

Enterprise software maker Sybase fleshed out its radio frequency identification (RFID) integration infrastructure by launching a new product which it claims reduces the cost of building, managing and deploying RFID applications.

By CBR Staff Writer

According to Martyn Mallick, senior product manager of RFID solutions at Dublin-based Sybase, the new RFID Enterprise application lets companies manage RFID data assets in a single system to automate and simplify the creation of new RFID-capable business applications.

RFID Enterprise works on top of Sybase’s RFID Anywhere solution; an underpinning infrastructure that was launched last February. RFID Anywhere (branded as RFID EdgeWare) melds the core wireless and mobility competencies of Sybase’s iAnyWhere Solutions subsidiary with remote database and mobile device management technology picked up from XcelleNet last May to deliver essential plumbing for RFID networks.

Mallick said that RFID EdgeWare provides a single API and abstraction layer that allows distributed RFID hardware devices (like readers, bar code scanners, printers and so on) to communicate across a network.

We call it EdgeWare because the RFID data and business logic resides at the edge of the various nodes of the network.

Unlike other approaches that force you to first centralize data from RFID hardware devices before business logic [like data filtering] can be applied, we allow you to do this at the reader level itself in a disconnected mode.

Mallick said that RFID Enterprise builds on this infrastructure by adding three additional software layers for data management.

The first is a data persistence layer that maps raw RFID data into a meaningful (i.e. a business context) SQL relational database schema for storage and subsequent tracking and reporting applications.

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The second is a visual process integration and monitoring layer for defining and managing business processes that require RFID data.

And the third is an enterprise application integration layer that maps and feeds data (in real-time if required) into enterprise business systems like SAP, BizTalk, Web-based dashboards or J2EE application servers.

Mallick also said the company has plans to integrate its RFID system with its core business intelligence (BI) platforms.

We already provide some level of pre-canned reporting. Next we’ll be looking to bring in more sophisticated BI and analytics to derive even greater value from RFID data.

Mallick admitted that the retail sector, which is driving much of the early adoption for RFID, isn’t a core focus for Sybase. However, he does believe that RFID plays to Sybase’s strengths in more generic applications relating to business asset tracking.

We’ve always focused on allowing organizations to capture data wherever it might reside…so RFID is an important addition to our overall platform.

Mallick pointed out that Sybase’s platform supports both the EPC and ISO RFID tagging specifications. EPC is being adopted by retailers but many businesses are also looking at ISO for broader business applications.

Mallick cited the example of one pathology lab customer that uses Sybase’s RFID infrastructure to track tissue samples. Its imperative for them to know where the tissue went, what tests were done on it and so on.

The push into business applications is a natural evolution for RFID technology. Much of the early hype around the technology has been around centered around the physics of the technology (i.e. hardware) and the economics of producing RFID tags cheaply.

Increasingly, enterprise software companies like Sybase argue that the real business value of RFID comes from the application of data generated to drive and optimize core business processes.

Many of today’s RFID pilots and implementations struggle to gather and integrate RFID information, said Mallick.

The challenge for companies is to gather data in different RFID devices, aggregate that data into an accurate data schema, and pull business meaning from it. That’s what our RFID infrastructure does.

Sybase formally unveiled the solution at the RFID Journal Live! Conference being held in Chicago this week.

The company says it already has several beta customers that are trialing the solution.

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