Once a company decides to use RFID, the most important step in the process is being able to successfully gather the data and manipulate it into meaningful information. Doing this as effectively and efficiently as possible requires a proper RFID implementation, which for many reasons, can prove to be the most difficult stage of the entire process. A company new to RFID will find that many changes have to take place to make sure the implementation is as successful as possible. Ensuring a successful implementation involves changes in all fundamental areas of the company, including their systems and products (Zebra Technologies). While these changes will prove to be difficult, many companies find that they can conduct business much more effectively after the implementation of RFID.
There are many things a company should consider before implementing an RFID system. It is important to determine the use of the system before it is put into place. For example, a company should set specific goals for what they expect the system to do for them once implemented. Determining this early in the process will help to pinpoint the most useful data once it is being gathered by the system. In addition, it’s important to map out requirements of the system over a set timeframe. It is helpful to have near-term goals just after the implementation, as well as long-term organization goals for the company about how the RFID system will help them over time (Implementing RFID). Since RFID implementation is very costly, it is also important to know the setup of the system before implementation. Knowing the setup involves understanding the key elements needed for the process. These include the tags, readers, sensors, and other software changes to make sure all existing systems are able to receive RFID generated data (Zebra Technologies). Another helpful thing to remember during implementation is to share implementation plans with the trading partners of the company. This way, any business partners will be ready to expect changes when dealing with the exchange of products and information (EPCglobal). Finally, one of the most important steps is to understand the importance of RFID middleware within the implementation process and its benefits for company.
RFID middleware is responsible for filtering and managing the flow of data between tag readers and applications. It is the job of middleware to turn the raw data into information that is meaningful for the company. Having meaningful information means it can be easily integrated into any of the company’s applications, and can give them a real-time view of all of their supply chain processes. These benefits are all possible using RFID middleware, but it is a step that is often overlooked during implementation (Implementing RFID). Ignoring the importance of middleware, many companies have found that the large amounts of data they receive from the system becomes too much to manage, thus leading to problems with the integration of the system and overall performance of the company.
With more companies becoming aware of the importance of middleware in their implementation, there is a need developing for a powerful middleware solution to handle all of the technical features of the system. The middleware should be able to handle both passive and active RFID sensors to ensure data can be gathered from all products. The full potential of the system will not be realized if only a limited number of sensors and readers can be detected. In addition, there are also a number of data and server considerations that can be fulfilled by a middleware package. Its job is to make sure the correct information from each tag can be pulled from the server when necessary (Implementing RFID). This can be done by taking the relevant information from various business applications over the Web. A strong middleware package should also be able to show all operations and inventory movements in real time to allow for the rapid formation of reports and analysis of the system’s functions. This includes a real time view of all monitor checks and system alerts found throughout the system. If part of the system were to fail, it is important to isolate and fix the problem as quick as possible. The RFID middleware should also be easily configurable for the user and allow for secure data sharing between other business partners, distributors, and suppliers (Implementing RFID). The immediate exchange of information with business partners is critical in today’s business environment, and is another benefit of a thorough implementation. Finally, the middleware, and the entire system, should be fully customizable in order to best suit the needs of the company.
Currently, the belief is that RFID middleware is becoming essential to all implementations, but has only begun to show its full potential. The majority of middleware platforms available today are supplied by many smaller companies trying to get a head start in the rapid growth of RFID. In the near future, it is expected that a number of software giants such as Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle will be releasing their own middleware solutions and taking the technology to a new level. Current middleware solutions operate at the plant level, when it will soon be necessary to fulfill demands at an enterprise level. It will no longer be middleware software, but rather a middleware architecture to satisfy the needs of an entire corporation (Collins). As the RFID technology develops, it will lead to the creation of many new and exciting business applications that will only be functional with an intelligent middleware package to read and filter the data.
In addition to a solid middleware package, the recent trend in RFID implementation involves the use of agent platforms to manage the data gathered from the RFID readers (BT Auto ID). Software agents are used to act as a specific portion of the company, such as a distribution center, an actual store location, or a field engineer. The agents then follow the rules that are set by the company for each location and can operate by themselves with little-to-no intervention from the user (BT Auto ID). Currently, many companies are moving toward using intelligent agents in their implementation. Agents are considered intelligent if they operate with a more realistic approach. This involves communicating with other agents within the company to produce results that the user can understand. They should also be able to react to changes in the environment and user behavior (Intelligent Agents 101).
Intelligent agents are currently being used for a number of business processes today including electronic commerce, process and workflow automation, and in numerous Internet applications (Intelligent Agents 101). Known for their secure transfer of data, intelligent agents are becoming a valuable key to reliable RFID implementations. Not only will this technology allow for secure data transfers, but they can occur throughout all processes within the company and can interpret the large amounts of data being read by the system. In doing all this, the intelligent agents are also able to reduce the overall system load for quicker response time and produce results in a near real-time manner.
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