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Auto-ID Center Founder Joins OAT

Sanjay Sarma, the MIT professor who cofounded the Auto-ID Center, has joined the startup that developed a software platform for managing EPC data.
By Bob Violino
Nov 13, 2003OATSystems, a startup software company in Watertown, Mass., has announced that Sanjay Sarma, one of two MIT professors who founded the Auto-ID Center, has joined the company’s board of directors. Sarma resigned from the Auto-ID Labs, a successor to the Auto-ID Center, and will work day to day with OAT, though he hasn’t been given an official title.
Sanjay Sarma

As the director of research at the Auto-ID Center, Sarma headed an unusual cooperative effort between academia and global companies to develop the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a system for identifying objects and sharing information about them securely over the Internet. In September, the center officially handed off the EPC technology to a new organization called EPCglobal, which was formed by the Uniform Code Council and EAN International to commercialize the system.

Sarma says the intense effort over the past five years was “not a marathon, but a sprint” and that it was time for him to move on. “The standards process is challenging and rewarding, but it’s also very tiring,” he says. “In the middle of the year, I decided to step aside, but we needed to complete the transition. I’m very pleased with what EPCglobal has done, so I felt the time was right to do something new.”

Sarma will continue to teach at MIT, but he will not be involved with Auto-ID Labs, the organization that has taken over the Auto-ID Center’s research role. He says he plans to be very active at OAT. “It’s a young company, with excellent engineering and a good product, so it was a very natural fit for me,” he says.

OAT was founded by Prasad Putta, one of Sarma’s graduate students at MIT. After Putta graduated, he formed his own company. When Putta sold it, Sarma invited him to help develop the Savant software the Auto-ID Center needed to manage EPC data coming from RFID readers. After that work was completed, Putta formed OAT and began building on the Savant platform. OAT’s Senseware software is being used by Gillette and other companies in field trials and actual EPC deployments.

“We’ve been doing very well and have more EPC implementations than most other companies, but having someone of Sanjay Sarma’s stature adds to our credibility even more,” Putta says. “He can talk with authority about standards and other issues of importance to our customers.”

Putta says Sarma will assist with the development of new applications on top of the Senseware platform, and he will work with customers to help them understand where RFID can be applied to improve business processes.

“We’ve been helping a lot of Wal-Mart’s suppliers get RFID-compliant,” Putta says. “We’re going to launch some products to enable them to automate many of their warehouse and manufacturing processes, such as shipping and receiving.”

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