AT&T Inc. (Bedminster, N.J.) and its subsidiary, Sterling Commerce, today announced that they are partnering with industry leaders, Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.), BEA Systems (Brussels, Belgium) and Symbol Technologies (Holtsville, N.Y.) to design and deploy radio frequency identification (RFID) device services and networks for business customers. The goal of this initiative is to provide business customers with a best-of-breed managed RFID service and standardization of RFID technology by accelerating the mass adoption of RFID through the evolution to universal sensor networks.
Currently conducting customer trials, scheduled for completion by mid-2006, the companies are working on network solutions that incorporate end-to-end services for RFID networks across diverse hardware platforms, operating systems, applications and databases—one of today's major challenges confronting RFID technology. Through this initiative, AT&T is seeking to make RFID devices as simple to manage and as secure as any other network element in response to growing customer demand for an integrated affordable service.
"As RFID becomes more widely deployed, network reliability, security and data integrity become increasingly critical," said Eric Shepcaro, senior vice president, Business Development of AT&T. "And for most companies, the task of ensuring those three things will be overwhelming and complex, especially across multiple hardware platforms and configurations and diverse supplier and partner networks and databases. We're leveraging our investments and expertise in managing and securing networks, including Sterling Commerce supply chain solution that encompass warehouse management, multi-channel order management and, with the acquisition of Nistevo, transportation management solutions, to transform the way companies use RFID and sensor-based technology to manage their business."
AT&T and its partners are working with RFID standards groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force and EPCglobal US, an affiliate of EPCglobal Inc., to improve the manageability and protocol support of RFID devices.
As an extension of its previously announced collaboration, the Intel worldwide professional services organization, Intel Solution Services, is co-developing with AT&T Laboratories reference architectures that will establish basic building blocks for RFID devices to improve the management and administration of RFID readers and sensors in a networked environment. The development work capitalizes on Intel's leading-edge network processor technology, Intel Solution Services' technical and execution expertise, and AT&T's experience building and managing complex enterprise networks on a large scale. "We expect the reference architectures will assist RFID equipment suppliers as they build devices that are network-grade," said Rick Echevarria, vice president of Software and Solutions Group and general manager of Intel Solution Services, Intel Corporation. "More important, the development of the RFID solution blueprints will enable businesses to quickly and effectively deploy RFID solutions and sensor-based networks."
"AT&T and BEA have collaborated to include BEA WebLogic RFID Edge Server, BEA WebLogic RFID Enterprise Server and BEA WebLogic Portal software as part of AT&T's managed end-to-end hosted RFID solution service," said Ken Traub, chief technology officer, RFID and Edge Servers, BEA Systems. "BEA's RFID technology is designed to manage readers and other devices, filter and coordinate with operational processes, and provide reliable delivery of and access to RFID data to business applications. Partnering with AT&T in the labs, and with pilot customers in the market, has allowed BEA to extend its RFID infrastructure software to better address customers' needs for robust RFID solutions."
Symbol Technologies is providing the RFID hardware to round out the overall offering, including mobile and fixed RFID readers. The collaboration allows Symbol readers to read UHF RFID tags and pass the information securely to the AT&T network and have the readers managed remotely. "Working with AT&T is an extension of our strategy to deliver complete RFID solutions that allow organizations to take advantage of a managed service that is secure, scalable and reliable for the most demanding global customers," said Anthony Bartolo, vice president and general manager of Symbol's Wireless Infrastructure and RFID Divisions.