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ATT Expands Its RFID, Sensor Service Offerings
The telecom company says it is taking what it learned from RFID trials it performed last year and growing its base of managed services using RFID and sensors.
Mar 28, 2007—In 2007, AT & T stuck its toe into the RFID services pond through pilot tests it deployed as managed services offerings for three of its customers. The goal of the project was to deploy an end-to-end RFID system for AT&T customers in a manner that would enable the company to leverage its existing professional services, as well as managed LAN and wireless LAN services (see AT & T Rolls Out Managed RFID Service).
AT&T worked with Intel, BEA Systems and Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business division (formerly Symbol Technologies) to create the solution. "We learned [from those pilots] that the technology generally works," says Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president of new services development at AT&T, "and there is an ROI for the companies that we worked with."
The first of these offerings, Mobile Resource Management for tracking vehicles, is targeted at companies that maintain a fleet of trucks or vehicles. Such firms include utilities, logistics companies and large retailers that manufacture and distribute goods.
With the second offering, RFID Asset Visibility, companies can track valuable assets using active RFID tags and software provided by AeroScout. The tags operate in the 2.45 GHz range over the 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol, allowing companies to use their existing networks of Wi-Fi access points to collect the tag data and send it to AeroScout software, which provides a visual map of the tagged goods and can send alerts if certain goods are removed fro designated areas. Keshavarz says AT&T plans to focus on its customers in the health-care industry when marketing this product, as asset visibility within hospital settings is a growing application of the technology.
AT&T will continue working with Intel, BEA Systems and Motorola for all three offerings, building on the experience it garnered through its pilot tests last year. Keshavarz says he believes there will be a lot of interest in these RFID and sensor-based offerings.
"I think our customers see value in end-to-end systems, and they trust the [AT&T] brand," Keshavarz says. "Plus, because it is a managed service, it's more economical for them" since they do not require substantial investments in equipment or in-house expertise.
Still, he notes, the pilot work AT&T performed last year revealed some bumps in the road that must be addressed. "There is a lack of standards for device management," he says, "and enterprise database integration is going to be a growing concern. Plus, we've found that the investment is borne by a single business unit of a company, but return is spread out over the enterprise. So, we've come up against some of the customers' internal struggles over who should fund the technology.”
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