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AspireRFID Can Lower Deployment Costs

The project, involving academic and research institutions across Europe, has developed free open-source RFID middleware, and is currently working to create a range of tools to facilitate RFID deployment.
By John Soldatos
Mar 16, 2009AspireRFID is an open-source RFID middleware project that was launched during the second half of 2008 by the OW2 Consortium, an independent industry community dedicated to developing open-source code middleware, and a European research project known as ASPIRE, co-funded by the European Commission in the scope of its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

ASPIRE is a collaborative effort involving 10 organizations from across Europe, including Aalborg University's Center for TeleInFrastruktur (Denmark), INRIA (France), Université Joseph Fourier (France), Athens Information Technology (Greece), Melexis Technologies (Switzerland), Open Source Innovation (United Kingdom), UEAPME (Belgium), (SENSAP an RFID consultancy and systems integrator located in Greece), Pole Traceability Valence (France) and the Instituto Telecomunicações (Portugal). ASPIRE aims to lower software and integration costs associated with RFID deployment. To that end, the organization has established the AspireRFID open-source project, which is developing a lightweight, programmable, standards-compliant, integrated and privacy-friendly RFID middleware platform, along with a range of tools intended to facilitate RFID deployment.

AspireRFID is motivated by the need to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for RFID deployments. This is particularly important for many small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), which typically lack sufficient equity capital to invest in radio frequency identification. Moreover, most SMEs do not have the resources and expertise necessary to research the optimal blending of RFID into their business processes. For many SMEs, RFID incurs a significant TCO, comprising hardware, software, integration, consulting and training costs. Hence, it becomes very difficult for these companies to leverage the technology to create innovative products and services. AspireRFID represents an effort to lower RFID costs based on royalty-free middleware, as well as tools enabling the setup of RFID-based solutions without the need for tedious low-level programming.

Standards, Specifications and Tools Implemented by AspireRFID
Using code based on Fosstrak software—thanks to a Lesser General Public License (LGPL)—AspireRFID supports EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code (EPC) architecture. In addition, AspireRFID has implemented modules for automatic generation of business events from low-level tag-readings (that is, the production of information comprising business semantics), as well as interfaces to enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management systems (WMS) and other business applications.

AspireRFID also implements specifications from the NFC Forum and the OSGi Alliance, along with several specifications of the Java Community Process (JCP). The project has already implemented a range of tools based on the popular Eclipse software-development platforms. These tools facilitate the design, development and deployment of RFID solutions, since they allow for managing a company's master data, logical readers and EPC configuration files (EC Specs and EC Reports, for example), as well as for the definition of processes and transactions.

An Early AspireRFID Success Story
AspireRFID has a vision of becoming a low-cost alternative to commercial RFID suites, which would be used by enterprises (particularly SMEs) in realistic RFID deployments. One early success story involves the use of AspireRFID middleware for an RFID pilot project undertaken by Greek clothing manufacturer and retailer Staff Jeans. The company maintains factories throughout the Balkan territory, with logistics warehouse in central Greece, and operates numerous retail stores in various European countries. Staff Jeans is utilizing radio frequency identification at its warehouse to track inventory at the pallet, carton and item levels, as well as to achieve automated handling of shipping and receiving procedures, and exploit real-time inventory data stemming from distant places.

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