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How to Integrate RFID Data Without Disrupting Your Business

Seven strategies to get your RFID data and business applications working together efficiently and productively.
By John Edwards
Feb 27, 2012— Getting a radio frequency identification system to gather lots of data isn't particularly hard. The real challenge arises when it's time to put that collected information to work.

Integrating RFID-generated data into business applications so that essential information can be viewed, analyzed, applied and presented to end users is often far more difficult than assembling the data. Since RFID is used in diverse ways by a wide variety of organizations and with many different applications, it's impossible to create a single, all-purpose RFID data-integration strategy. This leads many businesses to develop unique integration concepts and tools, or to adopt an amalgamation of approaches used by other organizations.

Photo: iStockphoto
Sometimes, an adopter is fortunate, and fit-like-a-glove data integration is achieved on time and within budget. Too often, however, businesses find themselves coping with a system that resembles the lead character in a science-fiction movie: a creature both weird and dysfunctional. Even worse, the overdue and over-budget creation runs about as well as a 1972 Ford Gran Torino with a Subaru three-cylinder engine.

Data integration poses a significant challenge for a broad range of RFID adopters in almost all business sectors, says Ken Traub, president of Ken Traub Consulting, a Lexington, Mass., company that works with businesses that rely on advanced software technology. The target applications, however, are generally predictable. "The systems that come up over and over again are enterprise resource planning [ERP] systems, warehouse-management systems and, for manufacturers, their manufacturing-execution systems," he says. Yet, enterprise customers tend to use particular products in different ways—a big reason vendors have so much trouble producing RFID-compatible applications that work directly out of the box. "Everybody has a slightly different picking process in their warehouse, everybody has a different layout to their factory floor and all that," Traub says. "There's always customization of these products—it's not like buying a copy of Microsoft Word."

Despite the serious challenges posed by data integration, it's possible for any business, regardless of its size or mission, to get its RFID data to mesh seamlessly with both current and planned applications. Here are seven steps that lead to data integration success.
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