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Symbol Announces Validation Programs

The RFID and handheld electronic equipment manufacturer will test its partner companies’ software and hardware to ensure their products work together.
By Andrew Price
Oct 20, 2005Symbol Technologies has announced two programs, the Solutions Validation Program and the SymbolPLUS Partner Program, both designed to validate the interoperability of Symbol hardware with products developed by software and hardware vendors within Symbol's partner network. In total, this network comprises approximately 10,000 companies, 85 of which deal with RFID.

"The Solutions Validation Program is targeted at our business partners who write application software, and it gives them an opportunity to come into our facility and for us to co-validate each other's solutions together," says Verlin Youd, vice president and general manager of Symbol's Solutions Division. "It shows that the features and functions of the application, and the use of that application, [are] validated. So when that partner goes to sell that solution, or when a customer is entertaining the purchase of such a solution, they feel much more confident that the solutions will work [and] can be supported together and, in fact, that the partners they are buying the solution from—Symbol and the application provider—already have a strong working relationship."

Previously, Symbol would engage in an ad hoc process to validate the use of various software applications on its RFID readers, bar code scanners, mobile computers and other hardware. "We didn't have a repeatable process, or a way of capturing learnings, either for the customers or for us, for use in similar validations that would follow," says Youd. "With each validation we do, we learn something new and different: There are no two solutions that are exactly alike."

Using the Solutions Validation Program, Symbol will now build up a library of product solutions, detailing the hardware and software requirements for those solutions. At the end of each validation process, Symbol will produce a detailed report including the results of all validation processes successfully completed. If performance problems are identified, both parties will work to address them. If and when these shortcomings are worked out, Symbol will issue a validation endorsement that the partner and Symbol can use in marketing materials. In some cases, Youd says, this validation process might also result in the two companies offering prepackaged software and hardware products.

Later this year, RFID middleware provider GlobeRanger will work with Symbol to validate the functionality of GlobeRanger's software applications developed specifically for use with EPC Gen 2 hardware. Youd says a number of other sizeable RFID companies are also interested in participating in the program.

The SymbolPLUS Partner Program is structured in a similar manner. Rather than testing software applications, however, Symbol will validate the interoperability of hardware and peripherals, such as docking units, special cables for handheld devices, or input and output sensor devices for fixed readers, with Symbol's RFID readers, bar code scanners, mobile computers and other products. "A customer might be using a Symbol handheld RFID reader to identify goods in transit, and have a GPS unit attached to that handheld, or a Bluetooth attachment," says Youd. The SymbolPLUS validation would ensure that the handheld and attachment function together as they should.

All validation tests for both programs will be conducted in Symbol's new solutions center, a 2,000-square-foot testing and development lab at the company's Holtsville, N.Y., headquarters.

Symbol says it has shipped 10,000 RFID readers to its customer base so far and anticipates $40 million in revenue in 2005. The company believes these validation programs will benefit end users of its products by ensuring the Symbol hardware will work with its partners' products. Says Youd: "This raises the level of [customer] confidence that not only do the different products function together, but that Symbol and the partnering company are working together proactively, rather than reactively, to make sure that they do."
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