Middleware vendors are likely to play a major role in enabling companies to integrate radio-frequency identification technology applications and systems--if they can develop much-needed standards to share and protect the data across enterprises, customers, and suppliers, according to Ken Schwarz, senior manager of product marketing at Sonic Software Corp.
Standards are required that allow the secure transmission of information across networks through nodes. Schwarz said this can't be done now--it's too early, and the industry lacks the proper standards. It could be another year before these standards emerge.
EPC Information Service, an EPCglobal working group that focuses on middleware integration and application standards, is expected this summer to debut this first set of standards. But Schwarz says it will take a bit longer for these standards to mature to the point where they enable full cross-company integration.
Sonic recently joined EPCglobal and is working with the EPCIS group. "The first challenge for companies working with RFID is getting the physics to work," Schwarz said. "If RFID is meant to help companies reduce the cost of tracking goods as product enters the warehouse and distribution center, and they're only getting 70% reads on pallets, then we're still stuck with the problem of readers reading tags."
When that problem is solved, companies can move on to integrate the RFID information coming from various applications within their organization to generate value and derive a return on their investment.
The biggest issue to be resolved is how manufacturers will achieve ROI. Retailers gain efficiencies if the readers work properly. Slapping the labels on the boxes won't get manufacturers the return on investment they need. What will benefit them is being able to capture the information to reduce delivery disputes. By knowing products have arrived at their customers' location and having the data records, six months down the road they can verify information when specifics of the telephone calls are long forgotten.