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Oracle, Intermec Team on RFID App

The two companies are working together to RFID-enable Oracle's warehouse management system.
By Bob Violino
May 14, 2003May 15, 2003 - Intermec Technologies Corp. and Oracle have joined forces to add RFID capabilities to the next version of Oracle's warehouse management software, due out early next year.
Oracle's Chorley

"Intermec is a major player in terms of supplying RFID technology, and we would like to be able to support the capabilities that they offer, some of which are fairly unique," says Jon Chorley, senior director of development for Oracle inventory and warehouse management systems (WMS).

Intermec and Oracle have worked together on bar code applications. The RFID relationship is essentially an extension of that cooperation, according to Chorley. The two companies will create protocols to ensure that data scanned from Intermec's Intellitags can flow smoothly into Oracle's WMS system.

"We need to look at how data will come into the database," says Keith Hall, Intermec's global alliance manager. "There are some issues around multiple scans -- if the product is scanned two or three times, how do you ensure that the transaction is sent to the database only once? We're doing work with the core 9i group to come up with a solution that can be integrated into Oracle's application stack."

In the fourth quarter, Intermec will introduce a grip with a built-in RFID reader for its 700 Series handheld computer. The Everett, Wash.-based unit of UNOVA (NYSE: UNA) plans to develop a version of the handheld that is optimized to run Oracle applications.

Chorley says Oracle's software already works with RFID systems in situations where the RFID tag carries a Universal Product Code. The two companies will have to deal with how to handle additional data on the tag. There are currently no standards, so Oracle will rely on Intermec's experience.

An even bigger issue will be adjusting the software to the process changes that result from adopting RFID. "The question is, How do I interpret this read and raise an appropriate business event that that read represents?" says Chorley. "Once we do that, we have a good WMS infrastructure that we can plug into, so the big issue is really the translation of the read into the appropriate business event. That's the work we're doing."

The two companies will also look at how the software handles errors and exceptions. Chorley says this task is more difficult when the user is removed from the transaction. "You need to have a way to raise an alert, to redirect material to a corrections area, or whatever it is," he says. "That needs to be built in. Our system is designed around workflow exception handling, and we'll be leveraging that infrastructure."

The arrangement is not exclusive. Chorley says Oracle's policy is to produce open interfaces and protocols. But the initial goal is to get the WMS product to work seamlessly with Intermec's RFID technology and apply the same principals to other systems when appropriate. The new version of the software is expected to be released early next year, but Chorley says Oracle has not made a firm commitment on a delivery date yet.

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