iAnywhere adds central management to RFID middleware
The Dublin, California-based ISV, a full subsidiary of DBMS vendor Sybase Inc, launched the middleware for RFID networks in February this year. It is a .NET-based system that links the information gathered from RFID tags to business logic for supply chain logistics, security, and workflow functions. The middleware has been designed for a distributed architecture, which means it can monitor and control data from various types of machinery used in a distribution center or on a manufacturing floor, as well as data collected from RFID tags, said Martyn Mallick, iAnywhere product director. aving been designed for use in a distributed architecture, the middleware acts as a "control center" for the various processes that support the reading of RFID data, such as RFID printer machines, which attack an RFID label to a box of goods, for instance, Mallick said. By bringing theses various processes together, the middleware promises to speed up the efficiency of RFID operations, as well as give enterprises greater visibility and control over the entire RFID process at a given location. The software could reside on the edge of an enterprise's RFID network, on servers at various locations, which would speed the time of data collection, as well as on a central corporate server. A number of vendors offer RFID middleware, including IBM Corp and Sun Microsystems Inc, but Mallick said most other offerings have relied on a centralized approach. "Ours is built around a philosophy of distributed computing and deployment," he said. RFID is still an emerging technology with a proliferation of protocols, frequencies, and tag types, said Steve Robb, senior director of marketing for the company's XcelleNet product group. "Our product supports different standards within the tags," he said. Until now, RFID Anywhere has only been able to support one protocol per installation, something that changes with v2.0. "We can now offer multi-protocol support within the same installation thanks to the inclusion of a software module called Data Protocol Processor," said Robb. "There are about 20 to 25 commonly used protocols, including ones from ISO and the EPCglobal consortium, but some companies may also want their own custom tags for things like encryption, and we have to be able to handle those formats too." As future protocols become available, enterprises would be able to add new protocol definitions to v2.0 through an XML file. The other area of significant improvement in RFID Anywhere v2.0 is in management. "We're enabling single-console management in this release, together with the ability to group readers into categories and set default profiles," said Robb, "such that if one device fails and plug in another, it will automatically take on the characteristics of the one it's replacing." He said there is a trend towards integration of RFID and mobile networking as the quickest means of getting data collected by the readers back to a company's HQ. "There are already mobile readers for use in highly distributed networks carrying our Ultralight database, and since data transmission is intermittent and low-speed, RFID Anywhere can sit on the device," he said, "and with another product of ours called QAnywhere, you can queue the messages to go and provide guaranteed delivery whenever a connection is made. The software is priced on a per machine basis, between $500 and $1,000 per machine, depending on volume. A free developer version of the product also will be released by the end of the year, which would enable enterprises to run RFID trials using the middleware, but is not available for deployment. Looking ahead, Mallick said iAnywhere likely would add new features to the middleware, such as the ability to work in mobile RFID environments, which today are not prevalent but are expected to become so. An example of a mobile RFID environment is where an RFID reader is mobile (attached to a forklift, for instance) and moves to read RFID tags, rather than the other way around, which is currently the most common RFID environment.