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IBM Releases Free RFID Tools

IBM yesterday announced the release of three new resources targeted at developers and students that the company hopes will alleviate the shortage of skilled RFID labor, thereby accelerating the adoption of RFID technology. The resources are being offered free of charge on IBM's alphaworks site.
Aug 02, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 2, 2006—IBM yesterday announced the release of three new resources targeted at developers and students that the company hopes will accelerate the adoption of RFID technology. The resources are being offered free of charge on IBM's alphaworks site, which it maintains to foster the understanding and development of emerging technologies.

The company cites the widely-reported shortage of qualified RFID workers as a key hurdle to faster adoption of the technology. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has vocally warned of the issue for well over a year. CompTIA vice president David Sommer said, "We conducted a survey earlier this year and found that RFID deployments continue to be hampered by a shortage of individuals skilled in the technology." Research firm Aberdeen recently concurred, finding in a survey that 47% of respondents consider "lack of skilled, internal, technical expertise" to be a key challenge facing the scale-up of existing RFID deployments.

By offering free resources, IBM aims to stimulate wider RFID education and experimentation which, in turn, will help alleviate the acute labor shortage. The first of these resources is a software application called the IBM RFID Integrated Solution Enablement, or RISE. It is a graphical toolkit with which developers can model RFID deployments. Variables and behaviors can be modified to simulate how RFID data would flow across modeled deployment. The result is a cost-effective method for RFID deployment teams to test their solutions in varying hypothetical client environments. RISE was developed by IBM researchers at the IBM Watson Research Center in New York and at the IBM Korea Ubiquitous Computing Lab in Seoul.

The second resource is an "educational toolkit" that IBM calls the RFID Device Development Kit. It includes a repository of RFID information in the form of technical articles, examples, and tutorials, as well as APIs that developers and students can use to interface modeled RFID devices with IBM's middleware.

Lastly, the Application Level Events (ALE) Preview for RFID allows developers to get familiar with writing programs that use the EPCglobal ALE 1.0 specification. ALE is a standardized interface to query RFID readers whose aim, according to IBM, is the "facilitation of application development that relies on EPC data input for making business decisions."

While these offerings may seem highly technical and obscure to many involved in RFID, the point is exactly that. Offering and supporting RFID software tools for programmers and students will hopefully drive more interest, experimentation, education, and application development.

IBM has been making numerous and varied announcements around RFID lately. Last week it co-announced with data analytics specialist T3Ci interoperability testing of EPCIS, the standardized interface by which RFID data is passed between suppliers. And a few weeks earlier, the company said that RFID label manufacturer Marnlen might produce its highly-touted, pro-privacy Clipped Tag (view the white paper).

Read IBM's announcement
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