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RFID as a Cross-Platform Abstractor

This guest contribution from Manufacturing Insights' Joe Barkai considers the need to map RFID-generated data reads into an enterprise's business logic to achieve real, actionable information.
Feb 16, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 16, 2006—Right now, RFID technology is well-positioned as a means to achieve greater product velocity and operational visibility across supply chains, increase efficiencies in inventory management, and enable product tracking and monitoring. Near real-time, unattended product and container reads of global EPC tags provide the foundation for a sense and respond strategy throughout a globally-connected supply chain.

One hurdle confronting this potential visibility is that simply reading tags at the physical network level does not by itself provide an integrated view of the supply chain at the business level. RFID reads are discrete and disconnected events, and cannot individually capture the history of the tagged objects. Therefore, a process flow and business model must be constructed to transform individual read events into a meaningful representation that can then be integrated into business applications.

To accomplish this goal, an effective global sense and respond strategy requires a view of a dynamic and open network that spans multiple business platforms. An RFID-enabled application must be able to track objects and their state changes in any location, then map that data into business logic. However, doing so often requires operation across multiple business networks whose members may not always agree to share business data, trade information, and intellectual property. Furthermore, achieving the necessary level of collaboration and information sharing is not always practical, as supply chain networks can be dynamic and ad-hoc as dictated by disruptions in transportation, regulations, and business imperatives.

Fortunately, object level information can be shared among partner enterprises using the Object Naming Service (ONS) and XML-based messages, then abstracted to higher-level business transaction objects. Business-specific data models can filter out irrelevant events, state data, and redundant elements, track business activities, and apply business rules to implement an effective global sense and response strategy without having to expose proprietary product and business information.

I am interested in your comments on this topic. Feel free to contact me at jbarkai@manufacturing-insights.com.
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