IBM Corp. and a truckload of other vendors joined the RFID (Radio Frequency ID) parade Monday at a meeting in Chicago that is shaping up as a coming-out party for the object-identification technology.
The EPC (Electronic Product Code) Executive Symposium, running Monday through Wednesday, marks the official launch of the EPC Network, an infrastructure that uses RFID tags to let machines anywhere in the world sense a tagged object. RFID tags are like bar codes except that devices can read the information they contain using radio frequencies. Most participants in the Symposium are highlighting the use of RFID to track products through a corporate supply chain.
IBM will offer consulting and implementation services and specialized software to companies that want to start using RFID, the company announced Monday at the show. It will help companies evaluate and adopt the new technology in phases and integrate IBM software into their existing back-end inventory database systems, IBM said in a statement. The software is based on WebSphere Business Integration middleware and can work with WebSphere Application Server, DB2 Information Integrator, Tivoli Access Manager and WebSphere Portal Server.
In Phase 1 of its offering, IBM will provide consulting and help the customer develop the business case for RFID. Phase 2 is a 12-week pilot deployment. In Phase 3, IBM will carry out a full roll-out of the system, according to the statement.
Intermec Technologies Corp. announced the EasyCoder Intellitag PM4i printer, which can encode a product's identifying information into an RFID chip embedded in a label. It can do this while also printing a visible barcode and text onto the label, said Warren Payne, a representative of Intermec, in Everett, Washington. The printer is the first that can encode data to so-called "frequency-agile" RFID tags made by Intermec, which are visible to reader devices using different frequencies in different countries, according to Doug Hall, director of printer marketing at Intermec. A company in Europe could write data to one of these tags using a frequency that's appropriate there and then ship the product to the U.S., where the same tag could be recognized by a reader device that uses another frequency.
The printer will be available early next year. Pricing has not yet been set, Hall said.
Also at the conference, Intermec demonstrated a system it developed with Georgia-Pacific Corp.'s packaging division in which the packaging producer can manufacture boxes with embedded RFID tags. When a company packs a product in the box, it can encode information in that embedded tag, Payne said. Typically, a company would put a barcode label on the box at the same time so the product could be identified in parts of the supply chain that don't yet use RFID, he added.
Promising to help companies get RFID systems up and running quickly, ConnecTerra Inc. previewed its RFTagAware software at the meeting. RFTagAware is a distributed application that includes RFTagAware Edge Servers located near RFID tag readers and RFTagAware Application Servers that integrate data from those Edge Servers into enterprise applications. It also includes centralized Control Servers for monitoring, managing and securing the Edge Servers and tag readers. The different kinds of servers may be deployed all in one place or in separate locations, according to a ConnecTerra statement.
The software can take the huge amounts of data that come out of tag readers to provide meaningful business information to enterprise applications, according to the company. It complies with the Auto-ID Center's Savant standard for RFID processing systems and implements new APIs (application programming interfaces) now under consideration as standards, the company said.
RFTagAware will be available to select customers in September and generally available in December, with versions for Linux, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris and Microsoft Corp. Windows. Pricing will depend on the number of servers and readers ordered.