2007 will be the year when a host of hot technologies which have been percolating around the mainstream rise high on the radar screens of CIOs and IT managers.
For example, radio-frequency identification, frequently viewed as a standalone tagging technology, will begin to ramp up the data loads IT centers must handle, as the tags become more pervasive. Web services, long touted as the next big thing, is poised to begin presenting workaday challenges, as managers are tasked with integrated Web-based apps into the enterprise. Mobile security is a no-brainer as a hot technology for the coming year, as far-flung workforces face newer and more troubling threats.
Most challenging may be two technologies which will begin their ascent in 2007, but may take a bit longer to assume a dominant role in the enterprise. Those would be virtualization and advanced graphics. The latter will get a big boost from the advent of Microsoft's Vista operating system.
In this article, we'll discuss all five technologies and try to touch on how they'll affect your ability to deploy applications and manage your infrastructures.
Radio Frequency Identification
After years of promise, Wal-Mart and the Defense Department are among the organizations which have moved RFID into the mainstream, using the technology to track everything from pill bottles to pallets to people. As more vendors get on board, there are some solid enterprise integration efforts developing back-end, supply-chain, and inventory systems that can deliver real productivity benefits to savvy enterprises.
Why now? RFID isn't new, having been around in one form or another for more than a decade. However, several factors have come together to make it a big deal. First, there are new developments in the integration of supply chain infrastructure with products such as Reva Systems' Tag Acquisition Processor. This has made it easier to manipulate RFID data directly into inventory, supply chain, and manufacturing systems. These changes have stimulated other entrepreneurial efforts and created more of a market for RFID-related products. Second, the standards are solidifying, making it easier to develop applications and interoperate various pieces. And finally, the investments of the two biggest proponents of RFID -- the U.S. government and Wal-Mart -- are finally taking hold. Taken together, it is clear that the time is ripe for RFID.
Anyone trying to master RFID will need to examine its three key components: scanners, radios, and warehouses. The reason for putting scanning expertise first is because the transition from bar codes to radio tags is a relatively easy transition. Think of each item as tagged with its own radio code rather than a physical one printed on a label. Any successful RFID deployment also needs to take into account potential radio issues and how wireless networks are deployed across the enterprise. Finally, warehousing and inventory experience are needed to collect the scanned information and integrate into any existing supply chain applications. "Essentially, what ERP did to the enterprise, RFID will do to the supply chain. It's all about centralization, visibility, and automation," said Marlo Brooke, senior partner at Avatar Partners, a systems integrator.
It also helps to understand the types of goods being tagged. Take the two situations where large appliances such as dishwashers and cases of disposable razors are being tagged. If you lose track of one or two cases of the latter product, it isn't as much of a big deal as if lose a couple of appliances. Ultimately, the IT shops that will succeed at RFID will be able to handle the massive data dumps and route this data to the right places within their applications infrastructure, and be able to act on this information as part of their decision support systems, too.