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Give RFID Systems an Analytical Edge

With an analytics and integration services (AIS) layer at the edge of enterprise systems, RFID solutions will become scaleable and bring real-time visibility and true automation.
By Hersh Bhargava
Jan 23, 2005The success of an RFID deployment depends on the accuracy of the data reads, and on the analysis of the received data. As RFID technology is maturing, enterprises can adopt the technology in a bigger way and move toward item-level tagging. Analyzing data and deciding its business relevance then become increasingly critical, because an RFID network at just a single warehouse could potentially generate terabytes of data.

In order to stand the test of time for achieving true business value and cost reduction, an RFID network must provide a higher degree of real-time business activity monitoring (BAM)—the aggregation and analysis of relevant information to get accurate information—near the edge of the enterprise systems. At that level, the need for data analysis and integration is critical.

How do you achieve a high level of BAM in RFID networks and make enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply change management (SCM) and other enterprise information systems (EISs) respond in real time? RFID technology has the potential to provide a higher degree of business automation than what exists today.

This automation can be achieved in two ways. The first is by developing new applications to monitor the RFID networks that work in parallel with an existing EIS. Examples of these new applications include electronic proof of delivery (ePOD), electronic pedigree (e-pedigree) to fight counterfeiting and product-recall management. The other way is to supplement and integrate with the existing EIS systems by providing real-time data and presenting the information in a way they can understand. As the EIS world has matured over the past two decades, it makes more sense to achieve automation by integrating "meaningful" information collected by RFID interrogators into these existing systems.

Different enterprise information systems currently manage mission-critical data throughout an enterprise. If the enterprise is RFID-enabled, the RFID data analysis (transformation of RFID data to actionable information) becomes important and brings the need for a software layer that gives real-time visibility to the EIS and insulates the RFID data analysis from the EIS. Therefore, an analytics and integration services (AIS) layer is needed to analyze the filtered and consolidated RFID data in real-time and send intelligent notifications to relevant EISs automatically.

The AIS layer can help in reducing the complexities of application development, integration and maintenance, giving significant benefits to developers, technology providers and end users. The AIS layer absorbs the complexities and challenges that come along with RFID technology, while proving real-time visibility to the business processes and allowing companies react to ever-changing demands by aligning business processes accordingly. Using an RFID network to detect a shipment delay from a distribution center to a retail store, raise an alert and inform both the transport management system (TMS) and the supply chain management (SCM) system is a complex operation that can be easily accomplished with AIS.

Current State of RFID Data Analysis in RFID Networks
EPCglobal has defined a standard interface and application-level events (ALE), through which clients (using either traditional applications or some other software) may obtain filtered, consolidated EPC data from a variety of sources leaving the client to interpret and act on the "reports" it produces.

With the increasing need for RFID data analysis, building custom applications at each RFID network is becoming a complex and time-consuming process. Interpreting RFID data, converting it into high-quality, meaningful business information and integrating it with EIS systems is currently an expensive task with many challenges.

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