Oracle senses RFID opportunity
Up to now most of the hype surrounding RFID, a tracking technology that promises to squeeze cost out of retail supply chains, has been fixated on hardware issues. But software infrastructure for the technology, specifically to transform and integrate RFID data into enterprise applications, is now starting to be addressed. Redwood Shores-based Oracle says it is working with Intel to develop so-called "sensor-based" solutions that bridge the gap between RFID hardware and software applications. According to a new strategic agreement signed between the two firms, Oracle and Intel developers will work together to develop "sensor networks", best described as technologies that capture, analyze, manage, access and respond to sensors embedded in RFID tags. Oracle is branding the solution Sensor-Based Services, saying it is designed around a common service oriented enterprise framework that integrates key parts of Oracle and Intel's technology stack, including: Oracle's 10g database and application server and e-business applications suite and Intel's processor-based handheld (including use in RFID readers), PC, mobile, server and communications platforms. Oracle says the SOE architecture will ease the RFID lifecycle management burden, from the tag readers on the network through to data in enterprise systems, and streamline the integration of RFID data into mainstream enterprise business computing systems. Oracle already offers several lightweight RFID-related solutions designed to inter-operate with its software stack - the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Compliance Enabler and an RFID/EPC pilot kit. However as the sheer volume of generated by RFID is expected to increase as RFID pilots turn into fully blown enterprise implementations, companies are seeking to implement more robust infrastructures. To help drive adoption of the technology Oracle is also launching a set of services as an extension to its vast Oracle PartnerNetwork. Over 60 partners, including RFID hardware providers, systems integrators and ISVs, have already signed up for Oracle's sensor-based services. One of these is Xpaseo Inc, a Californian provider of RFID appliances which is working to offer integrated hardware and software solution that embeds key elements of Oracle's sensor-based services into its XGate devices. Xpaseo says that Mitsubishi Electric Automation is currently piloting the joint solution at its North American Development Center for potential application in its operational logistics center for manufactured product tracking and control. Earlier this week Sybase beefed up its own RFID middleware stack, announcing a new application called RFID Enterprise that simplifies the integration of RFID data into business applications.