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Sun Debuts Solution for Asset Tracking

The company is partnering with third-party hardware and application providers to offer the RFID-based system, which it already uses to track its own assets.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 27, 2005Sun Microsystems, based in Menlo Park, Calif., says it is offering an RFID solution to help organizations more quickly and accurately track and manage their physical assets, count inventory and track ancillary data on assets, such as their age, expiration date, temperature or movements throughout a facility.

To create this system—the Sun RFID Industry Solution for Physical Asset Tracking—Sun partnered with Applied Logistics Solutions, an Irvine, Calif., provider of asset-tracking software, as well as RFID hardware vendors Intermec Technologies, based in Everett, Wash., and Intelleflex, located in San Jose, Calif.

Vijay Sarathy, Sun Microsystems
The Applied Logistics tracking software runs on Sun's Solaris 10 operating system, Sun Java Enterprise System and Sun Java System RFID software, Sun's Java-based RFID middleware that filters and aggregates data collected by the Intermec fixed and handheld readers. Intelleflex semi-passive tags provide a longer read range than fully passive tags and can be used alone or in combination with temperature or other sensors to monitor the location and condition of an asset. Intermec passive tags, alternatively, can track assets for which this additional data and a long read range are not required.

Tags are placed on items and encoded with unique IDs linked to those items in a database. Fixed and/or portable readers are used to interrogate the tags. Associating the reads with the fixed readers that captured them lets users know how many tagged assets there are in a given location. Business rules can be set to trigger alerts as tagged assets are moved.

Vijay Sarathy, Sun's director of RFID product marketing and strategy, says his company is talking to potential customers in the retail industry about tagging bar code scanners, walkie-talkies or similar assets. He claims hospitals are also interested in a solution like Sun's to track assets such as IV pumps and wheelchairs.

According to Sarathy, the solution can also help users plan for future needs. "From an economic standpoint," he explains, "it's good to know how your assets are being utilized so that the operations people can better plan their capital expenses, and their maintenance schedules and expenditures. That's another benefit we see, because there is not enough asset utilization information that is collected right now, and RFID could potentially really help that."

Sun is also likely to enjoy internal benefits from its new asset-tracking platform, which it has deployed in two locations—the Sun Shared Lab Facility in Newark, Calif., and the Sun Tradeshow Equipment Distribution Center in Milpitas, Calif.

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