Development tools ease the RFID process

Configuring and deploying a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag network has been a headache for many programmers, who have to grapple with a lack of standards and proprietary programming languages to get systems up and running.

Companies are bringing new applications to market aimed at making the programmer’s life easier and removing a difficult configuration process as one of the barriers to RFID adoption.

Toronto’s SAMSys Technologies offers a range of RFID hardware readers, and marketing vice-president Ron Pinkus said the company’s low-level interface and proprietary programming language that had to be mastered before deploying a network had become an issue.

“Many of our value-added reseller partners, particularly those that develop software applications, had requested a way to make it easier for them to integrate our readers into their applications,” said Pinkus. “They were looking for a way to use something they’re more familiar with.”

The company responded with a new application program interface (API) called RAPID, or RFID Application Programming Interface for Developers, which translates the proprietary language into Java or .Net.

“Now (programmers) can develop programs that integrate our readers using a programming environment they’re familiar with,” said Pinkus. It lets developers skip the chore of learning a new language, and get right down to coding and configuration. “We’re trying to make it easier, removing another of the barriers to RFID adoption.”

Another company aiming to make RFID deployment easier is Dublin, Calif.-based iAnywhere Solutions, with the recent release of RFID Anywhere 2.0. It’s a software platform running on .Net that provides an extensible environment for managing and developing multi-vendor RFID networks.

The company is a subsidiary of Sybase, and iAnywhere product director Marty Mallick said the aim of RFID Anywhere is to tie information from the RFID network back into the enterprise database and leverage it, as well as make configuration and management easier.

“[It] provides the infrastructure for people to build complete enterprise-class solutions,” said Mallick.

Mallick said it was developed after a year of working with customers and designed to address four key areas: enterprise management, multi-protocol support, security and support for new classes of devices.

A new enterprise manager gives a unified view of the RFID network, from controllers to scanners. The operator can configure and manage the network from a single console, setting properties for individual components or rolling out common configurations to whole sets of components at once. Mallick said it’s a big improvement over the days where each specific piece of hardware had its own rudimentary interface.

“(You had) to go into several different consoles (to configure the network); it (was) a management headache,” said Mallick. “We bring it all together into a single console that even lets you manage remotely.”

Security features have been enhanced in RFID Anywhere 2.0, including integration with existing systems and role-based permissions that restrict what a user can do on the network.

“The goal was to bring security up to enterprise class, integrate with existing infrastructure, and make the RFID implementation fit in as part of the core IT infrastructure within the organization,” said Mallick.

As well, iAnywhere has created an online Web portal for RFID developers, with education, white papers and free downloads of their development software, under a limited license, for developers to try it out and experiment.

A report from Forrester Research, Evaluating RFID Middleware, concludes that if RFID is to be more widely adopted by the enterprise, middleware is necessary to help companies take full advantage of what RFID has to offer.

“In response to urgent user demand, RFID middleware vendors are crawling out of the woodwork, with RFID pure plays, platform giants, supply chain application vendors and integration specialists making a play,” read the report. “To stand the test of time, RFID middleware must include a balanced combination of core infrastructure and packaged application features, including device management, integration, data management and packaged business logic.”

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