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IBM Upgrades WebSphere RFID Platform

Big Blue is adding new capabilities to its RFID middleware and opening a new RFID test and demo center in Ireland.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 01, 2006IBM has announced upgrades to its WebSphere RFID Premises Server middleware platform, a new asset-tracking application and the opening of a new RFID testing and pilot center in Dublin, Ireland.

WebSphere RFID Premises Server was initially released in late 2004 (see IBM Launches RFID Middleware). IBM says this second release, WebSphere RFID Premises Server V1.1, builds on V1.0's ability to filter, aggregate and monitor RFID data; integrate RFID read events into existing business processes; and track products. "We've continued to expand our focus on business processes," says Eric Gabrielson, IBM's director of worldwide RFID solutions. He adds that the upgrades are in line with the firm's vision of RFID as an enabling technology, rather than an end solution.

Written to the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform specification, WebSphere RFID Premises Server supports Linux SuSE 8 and Windows 2003 Server. Version 1.1 includes an interface to the EPC Information Service (EPC IS) database—an online resource for storing data associated with EPCs that enables EPCglobal subscriber companies to exchange EPC-related data with trading partners. "We've been working with clients who need to integrate item, case and pallet tagging with the EPC IS database," says Ann Breidenbach, director of strategy for IBM's Sensor and Actuator Solutions business unit. (When version 1.0 launched, EPCglobal had not yet standardized the EPC IS database format.)

In addition, Version V1.1 works with Printronix and Zebra RFID printer-encoders, as well as IBM's own Infoprint 6700 R40 RFID printer-encoder. Previously, WebSphere users needed to add support for these devices separately. Also new in version 1.1 is test data, RFID system performance information IBM has garnered through past WebSphere deployments. According to Big Blue, the test data can provide insight to users for planning their RFID system. Specifically, the data can help users understand what they should be able to achieve, based on their goals and products, in terms of read rates and other performance planning metrics.

Asset-Tracking Support
The upgraded RFID WebSphere Premises Server platform comes with an asset-tracking solution that can utilize RFID-enabled personnel identification badges and RFID tags attached to assets to locate items and associate them with users. Depending on a customer's needs, a variety of IBM products can be incorporated into the solution. These include IBM WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure—an embeddable version of the WebSphere software that can run on intelligent RFID interrogators—as well as RFID and sensor and actuator products from IBM Business Partners. The WebSphere platform can support either active or passive RFID networks.

IBM notes that some likely applications for its asset tracking solution would include tracking hazardous materials, locating personnel and emergency responders during emergencies, improving scheduling and efficiency of equipment turnarounds and routine maintenance, and providing improved management of safety and capital equipment accountability rule compliance, such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Asset tracking is the primary RFID application being showcased at IBM's new RFID test and demo center in Dublin. "The IBM Dublin facility wanted to understand how the IBM solution could help users better track assets," says Gabrielson. "So it successfully completed its own asset-tracking program, fitting campus ThinkPads with RFID tags, and tracking them through choke points at the entrances and exists of buildings."

IBM reports says version WebSphere RFID Premises Server1.1 is available immediately, and that pricing is the same as version 1.0: $11,000 per two-processor server. The cost for current WebSphere RFID Premises Server users to upgrade to 1.1 is included in their maintenance fee.
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