The Elephant in the room – why custom software solutions are almost always bad news for RFID

Despite the numerous advances we have made in the areas of hardware capabilities (pertaining to performance, capabilities and costs – see “The changing landscape of RFID – Then and Now”), the big question mark that still hangs over us is around the availability of scalable software solutions that address end user needs – in other words:

What are the factors still hindering the rapid adoption of RFID – especially since the value to end users are well documented for a long time now?

The biggest risk for the end users today as I see it is the fact that to date most solutions are all custom developed from the device layer up – what does this translate into for the end user? ….Consider the following risks:

  • Custom solutions often requires wide range of skills to deploy a working solution (RF, device specific, business process consulting, connection to enterprise applications, etc.)
  • Custom solutions do not ‘evolve’ easily as technology advances– and hardware technology as we’ve seen continues to evolve by the day!
  • Custom solutions result in high risk and high on-going support

These solutions are normally point solutions that are difficult to implement, deploy, resulting in numerous issues in ability to distinguish Hardware, Software, or System design errors when they are deployed in production (i.e. troubleshoot, maintain and scale).

At the end of the day, you are left hanging at the graveyard of unsuccessful ‘process re-engineering’ projects that cost too much, are hard to implement, don’t really work, and look something like this…

 

image

Source (elephant and blind men picture): http://i.zdnet.com/blogs/elephant-with-blind-men.jpg

Perhaps most scary is the aspect that most (if not all of these solutions) are often found trying to replace an existing Line of Business (LoB) layer vs. extending and complementing the existing electronic system to be ‘real-world’ aware i.e. change in process at the same time as change in technology is almost always a bad idea

In other words, enterprise applications have been shown to maintain a precise view of the physical world they control. However, it’s also been shown that they do not have visibility into the real world events [a great example is the lack of visibility in warehouses in terms of what the WMS system has as system of record, and what’s actually on the floor]. It’s this loosely coupled nature of interaction between Electronic Systems and Physical World that results in a big gap between Actual vs. Expected, and if we optimize the solution to solve these requirements with a packaged real-time visibility system, we’ve avoided the above pitfalls altogether.

In summary, the real barrier (to deploying real time visibility systems today) has been the lack of packaged software solutions that connects all the parts and get them to work in concert with the enterprise applications. The only option today unfortunately (as illustrated above) all along has been to develop a custom solution from scratch which, as all custom development efforts, can be a time consuming and risky proposition for a typical end-user customer to take on… What is needed today is a solution that can be easily configured, and deployed like any other enterprise business application to gather and utilize real-time data with minimal or no disruption to existing enterprise applications.

Stay tuned for my next post this week where I will illustrate a proven approach to address the above issues.

Until then, Cheers!

/a

Next post: The Elephant Movers – S3Edge’s approach to systematically break down these barriers and deploy a scalable, enterprise-wide RTVS

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6 responses to “The Elephant in the room – why custom software solutions are almost always bad news for RFID

  1. Iteresting take on the subject, with which I agree. However, this quote made me uneasy.

    “change in process at the same time as change in technology is almost always a bad idea.”

    This is correct insofar as the existing process is not broken. If it is then, broken process + RFID = more expensive broken process. Sometimes, in my experience, it makes perfect sense to use the momentum of RFID implemetation to change the process which is working suboptimally.

    • Hello Eldar:
      Thanks for the note – yes, the comment was targeted at existing LoB (Line of Business) applications that are the current electronic system of record and do not need to be replaced by RFID, but would benefit immensely from being complemented / extended with real-time visibility that RFID provides – this is the category of applications we are calling a RTVS or Real Time Visibility System. See my other post and slides @ https://rtvs.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/s3edge-real-time-visibility-systems-software-explained/ for additional details on this new category of applications.

      Hope this clarifies.

      thanks

      Anush

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