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IBM and Cisco Serious About RFID

Amid the flurry of announcements coming out of the EPCglobal conference, some of the biggest names in technology are asserting their commitment to the RFID market with new products and services. Today we look at the announcements of two such heavy-hitters, IBM and Cisco.
Sep 14, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 14, 2005—Amid the flurry of announcements coming out of the EPCglobal conference, some of the biggest names in technology are asserting their commitment to the RFID market with new products and services. Yesterday we reported that Hewlett Packard and Philips have established a partnership to accelerate the adoption of Gen2. Today we look at the announcements of two other heavy-hitters, IBM and Cisco.


There were four components to IBM's announcement. The first was that the company is working with RFID platform solution provider OATSystems, supply chain systems vendor MARC Global, and RFID data analytics startup TrueDemand. RFID Update spoke with Ann Breidenbach, IBM's Director of Sensor & Actuator Solutions Product Line Management & Strategy. According to Breidenbach, "OAT has ported to our middleware, and we are offering their processes on top of our platform." The agreement represents "two market leaders combining to offer one solution that [IBM] clients will find really helpful." MARC Global and TrueDemand have incorporated IBM's WebSphere middleware with their solutions.

Secondly, IBM introduced a "Work in Process" manufacturing solution, as well as an "RFID Express" package. The former helps manufacturers accelerate materials management within a plant floor environment. IBM has deployed it internally at its semiconductor fabrication facility in East Fishkill, New York. The East Fishkill plant is the showcase of IBM's RFID solutions capabilities, one that the company often refers to as an example of the technology's ability to improve and streamline the manufacturing process using RFID. The Express solution is hosted and, following a "pay-as-you-grow" cost structure, aimed at helping smaller companies under retail or DoD mandates achieve cost-effective compliance. It also targets companies that "need to implement RFID but aren't ready to manage the data themselves," said Breidenbach. Express clients will handle printing and tagging themselves, then rely on IBM to remotely manage and transfer the RFID-generated data. Help desk and maintenance support will be available.

The third and fourth announcements from Big Blue were, respectively, a new testing lab and an enhancement to the IBM Infoprint 6700 R40 printer. The lab is located at IBM's campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and will open in October. It will be a simulated distribution center where end-users can test all aspects of an RFID solution to arrive at the one that best meets their compliance requirements. The bar code- and RFID-capable printer, introduced in June, has been upgraded to support the Gen2 standard.


The networking infrastructure giant's primary announcement was the extension of the Cisco Application Oriented Network (AON) to handle RFID. RFID Update spoke with Mohsen Moazami, Cisco's vice president of Retail-Consumer Products-Distribution and member of the Board of Governors for EPCglobal. According to Moazami, the idea is to integrate as much RFID functionality as possible into the network rather than on standalone applications or appliances as has been done historically. "Cisco believes the world of separate networks is over," he said. "We are uniquely focused on delivering more and more intelligence in the network. It's about doing things in the network versus on the network." Cisco had been aggressively pursuing this approach already and will continue to with respect to RFID, which Moazami emphasized is just another data category like voice or security. With the Cisco solution, services such as RFID data collection, encryption and security, filtering, aggregation, and digital signing will be handled by Cisco routers and switches. "The promise of networked RFID and distributed intelligence has led us to design the Cisco RFID Solution to give customers what they need to maintain a single, integrated and intelligent RFID network built on open standards that allows interoperability with multi-vendor devices."

Cisco also announced a suite of services related to RFID that address the range of deployment stages, from assessment to piloting to production implementation. In addition, the company announced that a number of vendors have confirmed their products' interoperability with the Cisco RFID Solution. They include ConnecTerra software, readers from Intermec and ThingMagic, and PanGo Networks active RFID tags. Lastly, the company highlighted its Wireless Location Service, released in May, which uses a combination of active RFID and Wi-Fi to track up to 1,500 tagged assets within an equipped wireless LAN.
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