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IBM's New RFID Software Supports EPCIS

Today IBM announced WebSphere RFID Information Center, a middleware product created to provide a building block for multiple-company RFID supply chain applications. It is built on specifications for the forthcoming EPCglobal EPC Information Services (EPCIS) standard.
Dec 15, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

December 15, 2006—Today IBM announced WebSphere RFID Information Center, a middleware product created to provide a building block for multiple-company RFID supply chain applications. It is built on specifications for the forthcoming EPCglobal EPC Information Services (EPCIS) standard, which provides a framework for supply chain partners to securely exchange EPC-related data through the standardized EPCglobal Network.

Pre-release customers have used WebSphere RFID Information Center for pharmaceutical electronic pedigree pilots, track-and-trace applications for perishable foods, customs clearance, and other applications. Big names cited in the announcement include consumer packaged goods giant Unilever, e-customs project ITAIDE in Europe, and 'Big Three' pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen.

"RFID ROI comes from events that occur between trading partners," ABI research director Mike Liard told RFID Update. "The value comes from sharing data about events with trading partners, and in some cases, with government regulators. This product is a tool that is going to make it easier to share data."

IBM is promoting the software as a valuable component for electronic pedigree systems and announced commitment from AmerisourceBergen to use it in its supply chain tracking and authentication pilot. Related uses include product authentication for counterfeit deterrence, and advanced monitoring and inventory management applications.

"Some of the use cases we and our customers have developed have hundreds of events occurring each second," Craig Asher told RFID Update. Asher is IBM Software Group's chief architect for the product and also serves as co-chair of EPCglobal's Software Action Group (SAG) for EPCIS. "WebSphere RFID Information Center makes it possible for business people to interact with RFID data. The data is no longer just a string of numbers."

According to Asher, WebSphere RFID Information Center works on top of the third layer of EPCglobal's RFID architecture, which is where EPC event data is put into context so it can be meaningful for application software. The first layer is the tag and reader, and the second layer is preliminary filtering of raw data. Layer 3 provides the link to the EPCIS data repository.

Asher expects the EPCIS standard to be finalized in January, 2007, after approval by the EPCglobal Board of Governors.

In October BEA announced a product with similar functionality (see BEA Releases 2.0 of RFID Enterprise Software). Currently BEA and IBM are the only vendors with EPCIS-level solutions according to Liard, who expects more products to emerge, perhaps from a major ERP provider like Oracle or SAP.

IBM's software is available to users, and also to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) to incorporate advanced RFID logic into their products. IBM also announced a shipment verification software application based on the new product, and did not rule out developing other packaged applications.

WebSphere RFID Information Center joins a crowded RFID middleware market, but in the relatively uncluttered EPCIS segment. In August RFID Update published a four-part series on RFID middleware that explained various types and examined the role of middleware in RFID systems. Visit the Middleware & Software Systems archives to see the complete series and other related developments.
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