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IBM Affirms RFID Commitment

A new asset tracking application, a server upgrade, and a new test center in Dublin make IBM's RFID intentions crystal clear.
IBM Corp. on Tuesday launched new radio frequency identification software and services, making its intentions to support the RFID market perfectly clear.

An asset tracking application, IBM WebSphere Premises Server software upgrade, and 50,000-square-foot RFID test center in Dublin, Ireland are among the launches announced at RFID World in Dallas, Texas.

Since many RFID deployments are within manufacturing sites, IBM's WebSphere Premises Server V1.1 software upgrade is designed to keep up with high-speed facilities, such as a pharmaceutical company that tags items on the production line. Customers running the new software in a service-oriented architecture (SOA) can more closely align RFID projects to business goals. SOA allows information from RFID tags, including inventory, shipping and billing data, to link with applications and flow through a customer's IT infrastructure as well as integrate with suppliers.

Building the platform on an open standard J2EE infrastructure provides easy integration with applications. "Just having RFID data that tells what goods were shipped through the portal isn't too helpful," said Ann Breidenbach, director, Sensor & Actuator Solutions Product Line Management & Strategy at IBM. "You've got the information on a server, and that's nice, but it's nicer if you can link it to your shipping or order entry applications."

The IBM WebSphere Premises Server V1.1 software ensures reliable delivery of messages between devices and the Premises Server, as well as between the Premises Server and WebSphere business integration products.

SOA makes it easier to extend a company's IT infrastructure, or to modify processes. A modification might be to accommodate a department within an organization that requires an extra step to authorize shipping, for example.

Breidenbach said RFID projects are "all about getting at the data." Not only for product shipments to customers, but tracking assets within the company, too.

Along with the WebSphere Premises Server V1.1 software upgrade, IBM rolled out an asset-tracking application. IBM RFID Solution for Asset Tracking includes RFID tags, readers, servers, software, and services to assist companies design projects that track computers, data center resources, tools and other items.

Design requirements will vary. "We don't believe in asset tracking in a box because no two locations are the same," Breidenbach said.

To deliver the service, IBM will work with partners such as Arcom, Alien Technology Corp., Symbol Technologies Inc., Intermec Technologies Corp., and others.

IBM also opened a test center in Dublin, Ireland, bringing its network of global RFID centers to 10. At the facilities, companies can get hands-on experience with product tagging, supply chain integration, logistics management and asset tracking before going into production.

IBM Dublin recently completed an asset-tracking program by fitting campus ThinkPads with RFID tags.

Analysts estimate the RFID market in 2006 to be between $750 million and $3 billion. Market research firm IDTechEx expects the RFID market size, including systems and services, to reach 12.3 billion in 2010, up from $2.7 billion this year.