New Microsoft Release Aims to Democratize RFID

At Microsoft's Tech•Ed event yesterday in Orlando, Florida, the company announced a new RFID infrastructure aimed at making RFID deployments simpler and cheaper.
Published: June 8, 2005

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 8, 2005—At Microsoft’s Tech•Ed event yesterday in Orlando, Florida, the company announced a new RFID infrastructure aimed at making RFID deployments simpler and cheaper. While the software will not be ready until the first part of 2006, its very announcement represents an escalated commitment to RFID from Redmond. Microsoft will take aim at what it refers to as RFID’s leading “pain points”: the complexity of device management, integration of RFID solutions with existing software systems, and management of the resulting RFID-generated data. It is built on the .NET framework and “takes full advantage of Visual Studio .NET … as well as advancements across the Windows Server System family of products.”

The new RFID infrastructure includes event and device management layers. The event manager would allow a business to program responses to specific RFID data-triggered events that, using Web services, could span multiple applications across an entire enterprise. The advanced device management layer allows the adding or removing of devices to the network in a “plug-and-play manner.” The devices need not be RFID-only; any sort of sensor or reader can be attached, which Microsoft says adds flexibility and longevity to the software. There is an API so that developers can build their own customizations and add-ons to the infrastructure, which could be especially useful when applied in vertical situations. Satya Nadella, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Solutions, loftily expressed the ambitions of the new software: “Microsoft’s RFID infrastructure will provide the perfect platform for Microsoft’s business solutions and industry partners as we democratize RFID for small and midsize businesses through affordable adaptability.”

This announcement from Redmond speaks to three trends seen in the RFID space today. The first is a continued and growing commitment to the technology from the biggest names in software. Sun, IBM, Hewlett Packard, SAP, and Oracle are all coming out with periodic announcements about their own developments in RFID.

The second trend is that of a hybridized RFID-sensor vision of the future. Microsoft’s press release notably says that the “infrastructure will allow customers to read data through any standards-based or nonstandards-based sensors regardless of formats.” That is to say, the software does not make a strong distinction between RFID passive tags, active tags, movement sensors, thermometers, oxygen gauges, or what have you. It is designed to simply receive and process data read from the enterprise edge, no matter the vehicle. Sun and IBM both share that vision. (On the homepage for IBM’s Sensor and Actuation division, which received a $250 million, five-year commitment from Big Blue last year, the opening lines tellingly read: “RFID is the beginning. Systems get even smarter with sensors and actuators.”)

Finally, Microsoft’s claims for its RFID infrastructure address what is achingly needed to maintain and further the technology’s momentum: cheaper solutions. Given yesterday’s stated timeline, though, it will not be known until next year if the company can actually succeed in bringing RFID to the SMB masses.

Read the press release from Microsoft