Tags and readers are often thought of as the "business end" of RFID. They're where the rubber meets the road: where data about tagged items is stored and collected. But in reality, the business end of RFID is deep inside the enterprise. The raw data is of little value until put to use in an organization's operational machinery.
Increasingly, attention is turning to the software that enables RFID data use within the enterprise. New initiatives are flying thick and fast.
Look for a shakeout among the software companies providing radio frequency identification (RFID) enterprise solutions. Analyst firm ABI Research predicts that the next six to nine months will see numerous launches, mergers and acquisitions, and consolidation as the need for more focused RFID-related software and applications grows.
According to Erik Michielsen, ABI Research's director of RFID and ubiquitous networks, movement into this software space comes from several directions.
"SAP (with its Auto ID Infrastructure, part of NetWeaver) is pushing down from the enterprise application space and picking up functions traditionally done by OATSystems, Acsis, Connecterra, Sun, and GlobeRanger," says Michielsen.
In turn, some of these companies are broadening their focus beyond RFID middleware and into data analytics, business intelligence and automation networking. "OATSystems is a good example of this," he notes. "OAT is pushing up and becoming competitive with some NetWeaver functionality; and it is joined in the business intelligence space by T3Ci."
Sun, Connecterra, Oracle and Microsoft are all moving into this field according to their respective strengths. Others, such as Manhattan Associates and Siemens, continue to develop RFID middleware in house, but Michielsen questions their need to keep building closed-system and/or customized solutions between the reader and the enterprise application integration layer, commenting, "I think they would be better off partnering and focusing resulting free energy on services and higher end software."