Oracle Speaks of RFID Plans

After remaining in the shadows while rival enterprise software maker SAP (see SAP Takes RFID into the Enterprise) has been public with its RFID plans for years, Oracle has finally outlined its plans for supporting RFID.

Jon Chorley

While some Oracle customers may see the announcement as long overdue, the company maintains it has been developing support for RFID and Electronic Product Code (EPC) deployments in its products for sometime. “We have been working on prototyping support for RFID for the three years now, but we like to do the work first before we make announcements” says Jon Chorley, senior director of development for Oracle inventory and warehouse management systems (WMS).

At its annual AppsWorld conference in January, the company had announced that the next release of its Oracle Warehouse Management application would support RFID. Set to ship this summer, Oracle Warehouse Management version 10i.5 will be compatible with RFID tags, readers and printing equipment from a range of vendors. So far, Oracle says, those vendors consist of Escort Memory Systems, Intermec, Alien Technology, Matrics and Zebra Technologies, but the list will grow.

“We will extend the number of companies we work with as well as the range of device types that our applications will interact with to include other types such as temperature sensors,” says Chorley.

Oracle’s RFID-enabled WM system will link to other enterprise applications and systems through Oracle’s 10g Application Server. Sometime this year, Oracle also plans to update its 10g Application Server to include RFID middleware that the company says it is developing to provide the connection-control and filtering features required to process RFID data.

Oracle says its WMS and application server can be deployed independently of its 10g Database application but that it believes the strength of its offering comes from deployment of all three. “Customers can mix and match some of these products, but we believe we have no stronger value proposition than the one we offer through integrated solutions,” says Chorley. Both Oracle’s 10g Application Server and 10g Database will eventually support RFID networks and the data those networks produce, but Oracle has yet to indicate when it will add those new capabilities.

Oracle says that around 200 customers now use its WMS software, which was released two years ago. Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense mandates that require the placement of tags on shipments of pallets and cases, along with interest from pharmaceutical industry to use RFID to track medicine, has been prompting some of those customers to question Oracle about how the company would support their proposed RFID deployments. The company’s AppsWorld announcement sought to address those inquiries by stating that the next version of Oracle Warehouse Management would support the tagging of pallets and cases of goods as well as the tracking of inbound and outbound shipments.

“Our initial focus is at the palette and case level, but from the middleware to the database, we are very well positioned for the volumes of data that item-level tagging will bring,” says Chorley, explaining that Oracle’s existing Application Server, Database and Warehouse Management offerings have already proven themselves in large-scale deployments. “We are leveraging our mature technology by adding RFID capabilities to that framework.”

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