RFID Classes Hit Business Schools

At the University of California Irvine Extension, five courses totaling 150 hours are required to complete the program.

University of California Irvine Extension said on Monday it has opened enrollment for it's first certificate program in radio frequency identification technology, joining a handful of business schools across the country taking an academic interest in RFID. Classes at UCI begin in January.

Five courses totaling 150 hours are required to complete the program. The first two classes are being offered in the winter quarter and the remaining three in the spring. "The classes are based on business processes, rather than the technology," said Stefano Stefan, assistant director for the Business Management Legal and IT program.

Solving Business Problems with Radio Frequency Identification Technology Devices is the first class being offered next year. The class provides a technology overview and how it can fit into the business environment. RFID Technology: Principals and Practices, also is being offered in the winter.

This is the only "techie" class, although it's designed for people who don't have a background in engineering or physics, Stefan said. It will cover RFID technology and physics that can affect deployments such as tag or reader placement

Other universities and technology vendors do offer what Stefan calls "boot-camp type" classes that focus on the technology or one class in a larger program. These classes tend to focus on engineering and little about evaluating whether or not to replace bar code technology for RFID, for example. "We want to teach our students how to approach the question whether or not RFID is a good technology to replace another already in place," he said.

UCI Extension is not the only southern California university to offer classes in RFID technology. The University of California, Los Angeles has classes within its engineering department. Rajit Gadh, a professor at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at the UCLA, also is the department head for the Wireless Internet for Mobile Enterprise Consortium, also known as WINMEC.

But few universities have certificate or degree programs. It's more common for them to offer classes within an engineering program or have graduate students work on research projects with technology vendors such as Sun Microsystems Inc., or customers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. collaborating with University of Arkansas. "Compared with the technology, little emphasis has been placed on business processes," said Jeff Woods, Gartner analyst. "It turns out business processes are the more important component to a project."

Each UCI Extension class will cost between $500 and $600, depending on the associated costs for lab work. A few other California campuses have considered offering courses in RFID, but not certificate programs. "The fact several campuses such as UCLA and Berkley were looking at it suggests that this is a topic of interest," Stefan said.

The way most companies gauge progress is the technical success. There have been technology hurtles along the way, but really for the most part have not prevented rapid expansion. If anything's slowing adoption is more that most people can't figure out what to do with the information they collect from readers to improve their business processes, Woods said.

UCI Extension also is offering a seminar on Nov. 10, where advisory committee member will bring tags and readers to demonstrate the technology. Members, include executives from ADC Telecommunications, Avery Dennison, ClickCommerce, Impinj, IntelligentSystems, Printronix and SAMSys. All are located fairly close to the Irvine, Calif. campus.

Corporations are spurring on the attention by universities in RFID technology. "It's at the request of major corporations near campuses that have a vested interest in the technology," said AMR analyst Dennis Gaughan. Course work for RFID is "more technology focused today because they are trying to accelerate the maturation of the technology."

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