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Open Source RFID Middleware Initiative Launched

i-Konect of Mason, Ohio, last week announced a new open source middleware initiative which the company hopes will transform the business of collecting, processing, and sharing RFID-generated data across the EPCglobal Network.
Apr 07, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 7, 2005—i-Konect of Mason, Ohio, last week announced a new open source middleware project which the company hopes will transform the business of collecting, processing, and sharing RFID-generated data within an enterprise, among trading partners, and across the EPCglobal Network. Dubbed Singularity, the RFID middleware platform includes two main components: the edgeware, which receives and processes data fed by the RFID readers and tags at the "edge" of an enterprise, and Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPC-IS), which offers that same processed data to the outside world via a connection to the EPCglobal Network. (A diagram of the system is available on i-Konect's site.)

The company, started by brothers Ron and Tom Rose, decided to launch the open source initiative for two primary reasons. The first is the cost of proprietary middleware solutions available today. "Bringing middleware technology to supply chain management is currently very expensive," Tom Rose told RFID Update. "That cost barrier needs to be broken down, and open source does that."

The second reason is the belief that core middleware functionality is the same for most uses of RFID and can therefore be commoditized into a base open source software platform upon which service providers and application developers can build value-added features. "There is a lot of reinventing the wheel with middleware today," said Ron Rose. The hope is that commercial interests will become involved with and eventually adopt Singularity, thereby creating a de facto middleware standard and accelerating adoption of the EPCglobal Network.

i-Konect also believes that Singularity's potential uses extend beyond supply chain visibility, which today is the primary driver of the middleware space. Middleware is applicable to any situation in which RFID data is generated at the edge of an organization and then needs to be processed. "Middleware will be reused across many industries," said Ron. The healthcare and hospital arena, asset tracking, and mobile commerce are all possible candidates. Ron also cited RFID-enabled automatic toll collection, in which he has experience. Toll agencies are looking to share their information among each other and with neighboring parking lots and shopping establishments. A middleware platform like Singularity would serve well in such a scenario, allowing RFID data collected at the edge -- that is, the toll booth -- to be shared across the networked group of trading partners.

The idea of an open source middleware platform is an exciting one, but the challenge will come in gaining traction. RadioActive, a separate open source RFID middleware initiative that RFID Update reported on last August, does not seem to have developed critical mass and has been silent for months. Notably, i-Konect chose to distribute Singularity under a different license than RadioActive, one that is pro-commercial and, according to Ron, "will allow companies to do whatever they want with it." However the initiative evolves, one thing is certain: cheap, standardized, and extensible middleware would change the dynamics of the industry.

Read the press release on i-Konect's site
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