IBM and a number of other suppliers have met to highlight the use of RFID tags to track products through the supply chain.
The Electronic Product Code (EPC) Executive Symposium marks the official launch of the EPC Network, an infrastructure which uses RFID tags to let machines anywhere in the world sense a tagged object. RFID tags are like barcodes except that devices can read the information they contain using radio frequencies.
IBM will offer consulting and implementation services and specialised software to companies that want to start using RFID. It will help companies evaluate and adopt the technology in phases and integrate IBM software into their existing back-end inventory database systems.
The software is based on WebSphere Business Integration middleware and can work with WebSphere Application Server, DB2 Information Integrator, Tivoli Access Manager and WebSphere Portal Server.
In Phase 1 of its offering, IBM will provide consulting and help the customer develop the business case for RFID. Phase 2 is a 12-week pilot deployment. In Phase 3, IBM will carry out a full roll out of the system.
Meanwhile, Intermec Technologies announced the EasyCoder Intellitag PM4i printer, which can encode a product's identifying information into an RFID chip embedded in a label.
It can do this while printing a visible barcode and text onto the label. The printer is the first that can encode data to the "frequency-agile" RFID tags made by Intermec, which are visible to reader devices using different frequencies in different countries.
A company in Europe could write data to one of these tags using a frequency that is appropriate there and then ship the product to the US, where the same tag could be recognised by a reader device that uses another frequency.
The printer will be available early next year.
Intermec also demonstrated a system it developed with Georgia-Pacific's packaging division in which the packaging producer can manufacture boxes with embedded RFID tags.
When a company packs a product in the box, it can encode information in that embedded tag. Typically, a company would put a barcode label on the box at the same time so the product could be identified in parts of the supply chain that does not yet use RFID.
ConnecTerra previewed its RFTagAware software at the meeting.
RFTagAware is a distributed application that includes RFTagAware Edge Servers located near RFID tag readers and RFTagAware application servers that integrate data from those Edge Servers into enterprise applications.
It also includes centralised control servers for monitoring, managing and securing the Edge Servers and tag readers. The different kinds of servers may be deployed all in one place or in separate locations.
The software can take the huge amounts of data that come out of tag readers to provide meaningful business information to enterprise applications. It complies with the Auto-ID Center's Savant standard for RFID processing systems and implements APIs (application programming interfaces) now under consideration as standards.
RFTagAware will be available to select customers later this month and generally available in December, with versions for Linux, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Microsoft Windows.
Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service