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SkyeTek Offers Web-based RFID Software Platform

The company's MetaFi suite of hosted applications allows manufacturers to track high-value products in retail establishments and perform business analytics from remote locations.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 22, 2008SkyeTek is offering a Web-based software platform that allows manufacturers to track their goods in stores, hospitals and restaurants, saving mobile sales reps time counting inventory and reducing out-of-stocks. The new service, dubbed MetaFi, is being announced next week and is commercially available.

SkyeTek, which provides RFID interrogator modules for manufacturers of medical, consumer and industrial goods, has developed the software solution at the request of many of those customers, according to SkyeTek's chairman and CEO, Rob Balgley. A SkyeTek interrogator module is similar to standalone RFID interrogators but smaller than most—about half the size of a business card, says Balgley, and amounts to a circuit board without any plastic encasing. This module is then embedded in shelving, cabinets or other devices (such as vending machines) in use by the customer. Customers used SkyeTek's RFID interrogators to track items such as stents or medical implants in smart cabinets at hospitals, or to track high-value consumer goods in stores. Typically once customers had the SkyeTek interrogators operating, they began looking for software to perform business analytics based on the data they were gaining through RFID reads.

Martin Payne, SkyeTek's senior VP of marketing and strategy
"This [the MetaFi service] is something that began in late 2006 and early 2007," says Balgley, "with customers requesting ways to utilize the data." Previously SkyeTek customers had been using the company's readers and going to a third-party for software for business-rules applications. "The question was, how do you take a physical event and turn it into a logical event?" Balgley says. "If, for example, a medical device is out of a cabinet for a specific amount of time, what do you do with that data?"

With MetaFi, customers already using SkyeTek RFID readers in field locations can add the software services for a monthly fee. Typically, readers are located at stores or other retail locations and capture ID numbers on the EPC UHF Gen 2 tags as items are removed from shelves. Users of these readers can now add the MetaFi package, which includes the server, console software which displays data in a dashboard format, and MetaFi Agent software, which allows the user to access the server when an Internet connection is not available (such as in a store that doesn't allow a wireless connection for security reasons).

Typically, when an RFID tag is read, that data is sent wirelessly to the MetaFi Web-based server, which interprets the information and displays the requested analytics on MetaFi console software running on a PC, with a dashboard that, for example, shows where items will need replenishment, sends alerts when there is an out-of-stock, and allows the search for particular items based on EPC numbers or SKUs. When a number is inputted into the system, the item's description and location are listed on the dashboard. Operations managers, product managers and IT managers can create a combination of criteria and variables specific for that company's needs.

Company sales reps can also use the MetaFi Agent, which interprets tag data read by fixed and handheld interrogators wherever a Wi-Fi or Ethernet Internet connection for accessing to the MetaFi server may not exist. With handheld interrogators, data can be accessed and inputted through a mobile phone connected to the reader via a Bluetooth connection.

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