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Sun Makes Dumb RFID Readers Smarter

Sun Microsystems announced the expansion of its RFID portfolio yesterday with the introduction of RFID software for Java-enabled RFID readers and appliances.
Jun 30, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 30, 2005—Sun Microsystems announced the expansion of its RFID portfolio yesterday with RFID software for Java-enabled RFID readers and appliances. The software, which is already available for Java SE technology and will become available for Java ME by summer's end, allows functionality handled by middleware applications to be embedded on readers at the enterprise edge, making "dumb" devices that read and pass through information much smarter. With smarter RFID readers that can handle data processing and filtering, Sun's director of RFID product management Sam Liu told RFID Update, "you minimize traffic going back and forth over the network." Saving network bandwidth will be crucial for RFID implementations, which are expected to introduce a flood of new data that will tax enterprises' existing infrastructures.

Pushing processing further out to the edge also means that middleware can be freed to serve more as a device management and monitoring tool than as a data processor and filterer. Indeed, when Sun announced the 2.0 upgrade to its own RFID middleware package in April, the company touted precisely those capabilities. The centralized device management that Sun's middleware offers, Liu told RFID Update, "provides a web-based interface to an enterprise's distributed network of devices from which a customer can not only monitor what's going on, but be notified in realtime of important business events." At the time, Liu also said that Sun's middleware package had been designed with modularity in mind, such that pieces of the functionality could be parceled out and embedded on edge devices, which is what yesterday's announcement bore out.

Coinciding with Sun's announcement, RFID reader manufacturer ThingMagic demonstrated the new Sun Java-enabled RFID software on its own Mercury4 reader at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco. In supporting the Java software on the Mercury4, which runs a Linux-based operating system called MercuryOS, ThingMagic has made its flagship product open to the Java programming community, a move it believes will spur the production of applications around its reader.

The "smartening" of RFID readers in the interest of bandwidth preservation is consistent with Sun's decades-old mantra of "the network is the computer," a vision that fits with the RFID-enabled Internet of Things. The company clearly intends to be a major player in the realization thereof, offering middleware, hardware and software, services, an entry-level package for mandated suppliers, customized solutions for industry verticals, and test centers. Few other companies can claim a portfolio of RFID offerings as comprehensive as that.
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