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Intelligent Network Services Can Make RFID More Productive

By condensing raw RFID data into meaningful business events, an intelligent network service can help you implement EPCglobal RFID applications without overloading your supply chain.
By Michael Crane
Dec 10, 2006Dec. 11, 2006–Companies that implement a radio frequency identification (RFID) network to track material movement through a global supply chain risk being flooded with massive amounts of RFID data. Much of this data is not necessarily useful, and may actually reduce productivity and destabilize business operations.

The solution is an intelligent network service linking the RFID network with the EPCglobal Network. The intelligent network service condenses raw RFID data into meaningful business events and uses the EPCglobal Network to communicate those events securely to appropriate supply chain members. Reducing the amount of data transmitted and limiting transmissions to appropriate parties increases network performance, improves worker productivity and decreases RFID costs. With these benefits, organizations can utilize the EPCglobal Network to achieve practical supply chain visibility.

RFID Network Issues
One of the fundamental network challenges of RFID is managing the increased data volume generated by RFID tag reads without reducing network performance. Within an organization, this challenge can be addressed by fine-tuning the network foundation for availability, performance and security (see Dispelling RFID Network Performance Concerns). Once the network foundation is tuned for RFID, an RFID implementation can be expanded to display the location of goods moving throughout the supply chain.

Expanding an RFID network to the entire supply chain, however, requires slightly different network considerations. Administrators within a single enterprise control the internal network and can securely communicate data between devices, as needed. However, communicating with other businesses in the supply chain necessitates the transcending of firewalls and other security measures. with To accomplish this, a common data format all devices can understand must be used.

The EPCglobal Network provides a starting point for sharing information about RFID between separate companies in a standardized format. Until recently, physical networks implementing these standards needed individually managed, point-to-point connections supported by server-based software or a dedicated network appliance. This approach called for an investment in equipment and management beyond the network foundation.

Now, by adding intelligent network services, administrators can expand the benefits of RFID more cost-effectively to the entire supply chain. Intelligent network services optimize the distribution of RFID data between the trusted network devices of separate organizations. Embedded at various points along the supply chain, these services coordinate such activities as filtering and routing data, which have traditionally been managed by servers.

The use of an intelligent network service can reduce the cost of deploying RFID because no dedicated servers or network appliances are needed. Moving functionality into the network also centralizes management so changes in network policy or upgrades can be implemented in one place, disseminated automatically throughout the network. This increases the ability of RFID deployments to adapt to changing business requirements.

Integrating intelligence into the network fabric is an accepted network-management solution. Many value-added services, such as storage management and load balancing that were previously performed by individual server or appliance solutions, are now managed at a lower cost within the network itself. Using this approach for RFID will help increase the adoption of RFID technology by supporting affordable, easily manageable solutions.

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