IBM Launches New RFID And Sensor Software

The software, developed by IBM's new Sensors and Actuators business unit, is designed to help businesses collect and act on data from RFID and other sensor-based technology.

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

December 16, 2004

3 Min Read

IBM on Wednesday rolled out a set of software products designed to help businesses collect and act on data from radio-frequency identification tags and other sensor-based technology. The products are the first for IBM's three-month old Sensors and Actuators business unit.

WebSphere RFID Premises Server acts as a central repository for data coming in from readers and controllers, and can execute business processes using RFID data. It runs on a Java 2 Enterprise Edition Web-application server, provides secure messaging and data filtering, along with management and deployment for remote locations such as retail stores, distribution centers, and manufacturing sites. The application can interpret and correlate high volumes of data from RFID devices while connecting to the server to gain instant visibility of suppliers' RFID-tagged pallets and products, says Ann Breidenbach, director of strategy for IBM's Sensor and Actuator Solutions business unit. "Companies can't wait for the three-month quarterly report to tell them how many winter coats they sold," she says. "They need the ability to get the information and manage it from a central location."

The software bundles IBM's WebSphere Application Server, DB2 Universal Database software, WebSphere MQ messaging software, and Tivoli Systems Management middleware. It includes WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Product Center to help customers connect systems with third-party applications.

German retailer Metro Group AG, which is rolling out RFID to about 250 locations throughout its supply chain, is using RFID middleware supported by the IBM WebSphere RFID Premises Server. The solution will give Metro a virtual view of inventory from the 20 suppliers now participating in its RFID program that are tagging pallets and cases shipped to Metro's distribution centers. Another 80 suppliers are scheduled to follow suit in 2005. Similar to other retailers deploying RFID, Metro's goal is to eliminate inventory errors and improve customer satisfaction by making sure products are on the shelf when needed.

Another offering is WebSphere Remote Server for the retail industry, which is designed to help speed integration of various applications and devices. For example, retailers can link new or existing in-store systems, such as RFID-enabled applications, or point-of-sale systems. "A store that wants to implement kiosks or self-checkouts needs a way to integrate old with new devices and then get the data to a central place so they can evaluate what had sold and complementary products," Breidenbach says. "It allows customers to integrate new components at the store and execute applications at the store to understand what is happening with their inventory in real time."

IBM also introduced its WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure middleware that RFID equipment makers can embed in their RFID readers to integrate RFID data collection and reporting at the edge of the network. It's based on J2ME (Java-based) open standards with secure messaging capabilities.

The application is geared toward original equipment manufacturers such as Intermec Technologies Inc. and SAMSys Technologies Inc. that build RFID readers. Intermec already has integrated IBM WebSphere Device Infrastructure with its new IF-5 Intelligent RFID reader for Generation 2 specifications. Breidenbach says other reader manufacturers are expected to announce products based on its software in the coming months.

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