Tag Archives: BizTalk RFID

BizTalk Server 2010 goes RTM – and get a load of some free training as well!

 

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Read more about it here or check out the BizTalk Server portal to learn more and play with the latest release of BizTalk Server, which represents a culmination of Microsoft’s recent wave of platform / application infrastructure technologies investments this year. Along with the releases earlier this calendar year of .NET Framework 4, Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabric, BizTalk Server 2010 makes it easier for customers to build composite applications that span both on-premises LOB systems and new applications deployed onto the public cloud.

So what does this mean for customers looking to build out RFID applications on the Microsoft platform?

From a feature perspective (in addition to being the only enterprise platform to build cohesive, scalable .NET based Auto-ID applications spanning On-Premise and On-Device) the latest release provides built-in components for rapid development of RFID solutions including event handlers that enable removal of duplicate events and filters based on EPC and visibility requirements (the new delivery capabilities send events directly to .NET applications, BizTalk Server and EPCIS services).

But perhaps more importantly this release represents Microsoft’s continued investments and commitment to the RFID space, putting to rest all the FUD that’s been spread by opportunistic elements around ‘Microsoft’s RFID investments and roadmap’. Put more simply, starting with BizTalk Server 2006 R2 and continuing on with 2009 and now the 2010 edition, BizTalk server has had extensive support for creating and deploying RFID aware applications, through the BizTalk RFID component. In addition to being the only enterprise platform that has a well-defined model for abstracting out the differences between the RFID device types, and providing a uniform, consistent programming model across these device types (even the specific kind of RFID technology in use be it on the server or on mobile devices), this release signals Microsoft’s commitment to this space for customers using their platform (unlike Oracle, IBM and SAP who threw in the towel on this a while ago)

Wanna know more about BizTalk can do for your business? Well check out the free training kits that the crew at MS just released – and if RFID is the only game you are, stay tuned for a comprehensive book by SAMS on BizTalk Server 2010 where your truly has had the pleasure of authoring a couple of chapters (one on BizTalk RFID server and the other on BizTalk RFID mobile) with a star-studded cast of authors.

 

  • The BizTalk Server 2010 training kit (that includes labs and training videos) to help you learn about the new features of BizTalk Server 2010 can now be downloaded here.

  • These labs are designed to be executed in a BizTalk Server 2010 development environment (which is also free and can be accessed here)

 

Cheers!

 

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Spotlight for Laptop tracking

Here’s a great (short) video that the team recorded of an operational (‘live’) Laptop tracking solution (at a financial services institution in India) built on Spotlight. I’ve also included a deck that articulates (briefly) the solution approach, workflows, and the technology used.

 

Couple of important takeaways:

  1. The base capabilities of the Spotlight product allows end-users to easily model and deploy domain-specific solutions for asset tracking (such as tracking laptops, baggage, IT assets in-store items etc.) and evolve use-cases organically over time on a real-time solution platform. See here to learn more about Spotlights’ capabilities that allow you to deploy various asset tracking initiatives on a single, unified solution platform and check out the Asset Tracking solutions page to see how the same concepts apply to baggage, IT asset tracking etc.)
  2. Device independence is baked into the solution – i.e. though you see an ‘Active’ Hand-held reader being used in this scenario (as outlined in the solution) the beauty of the solution is that it can ‘plug and play’ with a variety of HW (we’ve done variants with MC 9090 Handhelds from Motorola and fixed / active readers from any HW manufacturers that support BizTalk RFID as parts of the solution) which in essence is the leverage that the BizTalk RFID platform gives you – A way for applications (such as Spotlight) built on this platform to work seamlessly in a device independent manner… and given this has been the case for quite some time now, maybe the new phrase (in addition to RFID for Everyman) to describe this support for heterogeneous device landscape might be ‘So easy,that even a caveman understands this’ 😉 🙂

As you can see, this is a fairly generic scenario for validation and verification of asset and owner in a single automated transaction via RFID technology. In essence this could be applied to a plethora of scenarios for eliminating errors and reducing time during:

  1. Personnel verification in secure areas
  2. Guest verification in resorts (ski passes come to mind here!)
  3. IT asset verification during servicing
  4. Oil & Gas Asset tracking

And a whole lot more which involves secure access and enhanced guest experience.

Enjoy and drop me a note if you’d like to learn more about the solution.

Cheers!

/a

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Customer video of Spotlight in action at RFID Journal Live keynote

At Microsoft’s RFID Journal keynote today, an example of how the base capabilities of the Spotlight product has been customized and deployed by an industry leader in the 3PL industry – Toll Global Logistics – was showcased.

If you haven’t seen it already, I’d urge you to invest 3.5 mts on this great video to see how a leader in the logistics space has invested in technology to leapfrog competition and drive more value out of the supply chain for their customers.

 

Enjoy!!

 

Cheers!

 

/a

 

 

P.S> For those of you who made the connection, yes this was the customer I was referring to in this earlier post 🙂

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Introducing Spotlight – an industry first packaged RFID-based asset tracking product for vertical markets from S3Edge

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(Fine print: Industry Solution Starter-kits come standard! Click here to learn more)

 

Today we launch Spotlight, our packaged asset tracking product which allows end-users to do the following out of the box:

  • View asset movements in real-time by answering the following:
    • “What are all the zones that this asset has been seen at?”
    • “What are the assets that have been seen at this zone?”
  • Reason on asset movements by providing business critical inferences such as :
    • “This asset has moved to a new location from <previous location>”
  • Find items in the real-world by seamlessly executing real-world search on asset observations and answering the following:
    • “Where was it last seen?”, “Is it in a particular zone now?”
  • Act in real-time based on activity observed. Typical examples include:
    • Presence (asset type and location) based feedback
    • Actions based on exceptions (“This asset should not be in a particular zone”)
  • Gain business insights from ad-hoc, on ground activity by providing configurable ‘self-service’ reports on asset movements across zones;
    • Ex.: “Tell me where the bags for this flight were last seen”, “Tell me all the missing items in the front store from last audit” etc.

And a whole LOT more!

Read more about it here, and check out our (brand new) website – www.s3edge.com to learn more about Spotlight and the Industry Solutions that we are currently focused on (Tip: DO NOT miss the Virtual Product Tours that show the product in action!).

We’d love to hear from you when you want to Get Started (click here to learn more) with utilizing Spotlight technology for a RFID solution deployment that you are planning.

And if you haven’t seen the video of Spotlight in action at Toll Global Logistics check it out on our website or at our YouTube channel here.

All in all, while this is the culmination of an exciting 2 years in working closely with end-users and delivering on their needs, we look forward to a whole new chapter of scalable, enterprise-ready software solutions unfolding on Spotlight.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any q’s / thoughts / comments –> send me a note or send mail to info@s3edge.com.

 

Cheers!

 

/a

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The Top 5 habits of all successful, packaged RFID applications

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Source: www.istockphoto.com

In my last post, we talked about the top 5 critical factors to design for while deploying an enterprise wide real-time visibility system strategy with RFID. 

In this post, I will address what a ‘packaged’ application really means and the ‘Top 5’ characteristics to look for while choosing a packaged vendor

A number of vendors on the market have announced "packaged" applications. Here are some ways to read through the marketing literature to understand the real level of packaging:

1) Simple out of the box installation: Is there a binary installable offering (like a Microsoft installer or setup file). Can the customer IT organization use this to create a deployment instance, or does it need professional services even to just install and get it configured?

2) Clear demarcation between "product" and customization, at the binary level: A large number of "packaged" offerings involve starting from source code and changing it. This is an unsupportable recipe – For fixes and enhancements to be really applied, and breaking changes to be identified and fixed, binary base product is a pre-requisite.

3) Deep leverage of standard development tools: (1) and (2) are possible with completely integrated offerings from proprietary solution vendors, but if customization involves learning a new language, toolset, debuggers, or development methodology, the cost of enhancements will be prohibitive and non-scalable.

4) ‘Centralizable’, remote administration: Even in RFID deployments of scale with multiple support centers, the RFID expertise tends to be concentrated in small numbers of experienced IT departments. They need to be able to get to all the deployed instances and manage them effectively. This has to be self-service oriented, where administrators can completely administer all aspects of their application, including finding devices and antennas that are not working, replacing and adding new devices, configuring user administration, and delegating these capabilities in a self-service manner.

5) Rich out of the box functionality: Yes customization is inevitable for the following layers of the overall deployment:

  • Presentation
  • Integration,
  • Reporting, and
  • Human workflow,

…since each organization will want to view the RFID solution in the context of their overall enterprise architecture.

But minimizing the customization to just these areas, without violating tenets (1-4) means the rest of the application, particularly as it pertains to RFID and device specifics, have to be clearly separable and outside the realm of the customization – Typically this means significant out of the box functionality at the RFID level.

Hopefully, this gives you insight into what to look for in a truly packaged application to solve your needs for a real-time visibility system, and you found this useful and valuable.

Looking forward to discussing and demo’ing capabilities of real-time visibility systems from S3Edge that demonstrate #1 through #5 above for your asset tracking needs in discrete manufacturing and warehouse operations! Stay tuned for the next post (and this will be a good customer scenario / ROI focused post! :))

 

Cheers!

/a

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The Top 5 factors that most influence a successful deployment of RFID applications in your Enterprise

Your management team comes to you one day and tasks you with figuring out what your enterprise-wide RFID roll-out strategy needs to look like 1, 3, and 5 years from now and the factors to optimize for in order to make it a core competitive differentiator for your organization.

You’ve read all about RFID, are excited about the potential of the technology (viable and useful  technology that can help achieve near term tactical and longer term strategic goals of your organization) but have seen enough minefields (and half-baked success stories) that leaves you in a conundrum, trying to address the following questions:

  1. How do I cut through all the FUD and get a deeper understanding of the factors to look for in order to successfully deploy an enterprise-wide RFID strategy?
  2. What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today, and 5 years from now?

Source:istockphoto.com

Based on learnings and direct feedback from our early adopters, we’ve attempted to capture some of the salient “must design for” factors that we believe will directly impact the probability of your success – irrespective of whether you go with S3Edge or not as your trusted partner for your enterprise-wide RFID solutions.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some answers for the first question,in order to optimize for success in your RFID deployments:

 

Source:istockphoto.com

 

  1. Device Independence matters New kinds of readers and tags continue to appear, existing products continue to mature, most if not all customers will have a variety of hardware that they will want to choose from. Need a platform that evolves with their needs in a straightforward manner. BizTalk RFID is far and away the leader in this category, the windows device driver like model and the assumptions of scale behind it already have momentum and will continue to build up more momentum as the logo programs and other things kick in. Oracle throwing in the towel here is an example of what the future will be for this category.
  2. Devices matter At first glance this might be counter to the point above, but RFID devices continue to be ‘cutting edge’ technology. Having deep device expertise is critical to success on an RFID project, a platform like BizTalk RFID does not mean that anyone who can program BizTalk can really build RFID applications. We have made deep and significant investments in understanding, controlling and taking advantage of the device experience, which gives us a sustainable deep competitive advantage in building RFID applications. Along the same lines, we believe that a robust tag placement and readability offering is critical for any RFID solution provider.
  3. Mobility matters The Microsoft BizTalk RFID Mobile platform (a standalone, yet integral part of the BizTalk RFID server platform) now allows application logic to be executed on device and distribute actions to HH’s / forklifts etc. based on real-time inputs / workflow logic via a rich set of out of box capabilities. These on-device capabilities include connection management, support for online / offline operations, cached storage via SQL CE on device, and web services based integration with multiple end-points for applications that execute on the mobile device. An integral part of any s/w solution package must include mobile apps that are capable of taking advantage of these rich capabilities while perhaps more importantly being able to address the mobile worker use cases like inventory / stock taking out of the box in the context of the business application being deployed.
  4. People matter RFID offers the promise of unattended, automatic, ubiquitous data collection that should enable unobtrusive operation. We call this the "observational framework", and it is an important cornerstone of any RFID deployment. However, when the framework detects anomalies, for actions to be taken, people have to be involved. This includes surfacing alerts and exceptions where they happen, enabling the staff on the ground to fix problems instead of compounding downstream errors. This is usually human workflow of some sort, either utilizing fixed stations, or more typically, handheld readers and terminals. A robust and scalable human workflow engine is a critical part of any packaged RFID offering. This has to be ‘tailor-able’ for the specific flows at any given site, while still offering leveraged out of the box functionality for connectivity, login, data synchronization, alerts, and exception management.
  5. Packaging matters BizTalk RFID, like its bigger cousin, BizTalk is an ideal platform for System Integrators given the amount of control and flexibility that is possible. This can lead to solutions with extensive customization. Extensive customization is expensive to specify, implement, deploy, support, and service. The way forward is to leverage this platform in a way that reusable solutions are created, and a cornerstone of that is building "packaged" applications, with their desirable ROI and time to deployment profiles.

I hope you found this useful and valuable – If the above resonates or helps with your efforts around RFID, we’d love to hear from you (send me a note, or drop us a line at info@s3edge.com)

Next post: In our next post we will talk to the “The 5 habits of all successful packaged RFID applications”, continuing from where I left off today to address the second question, namely What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today and 5 years from now?” – stay tuned!

Cheers!

Anush Kumar with Ram Venkatesh

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S3Edge Real-Time Visibility Systems [RTVS] software explained

Below is the deck that I used at the Webinar we did with Microsoft and RFID Journal last quarter <see archives for more detailed posts on this and sharing slides since the recording seems to have ‘been sunset’ for inexplicable reasons – thanks to folks who brought this to my attention!>

Overall, this is a concise, easy to browse and yet detailed overview of our mission here at S3Edge – hope you enjoy as much as we did pulling this together!

 

 

Cheers

/a

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Checking back in to RTVS land

It’s been a while since I posted and am excited to be back in RTVS land and posting from the world of Real-Time Visibility Systems. My mini-‘timeout’ was personal (just got married to an extremely special person, and took some time to travel in the south and west of Ireland) and it certainly was (however small :)) a good thing for the soul and the mind. As with most of my trips, I try to completely disconnect but the new iPhone SDK and and exciting developments in cloud computing succeeded in taking me back to my teens in terms of fascination with technology and the impact it has every time it evolves to re-invent – at some point I’ll report back on the status of my new mobile and cloud apps that get classified under the ‘Kumar Skunkwork’s’ department 😉

One of my other favorite activities to clear my head (and refresh the batteries) is to catch up on the general readings, which almost always means a good book or two and poring over blogs – A great book I spent some time on this time was ‘Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity’ by Hugh McLeod – straight up and in your face practical advice on innovating and continuing to innovate. Some of the blogs I caught up on and continue to take a peek at once in a  while over the weekends are:

  1. Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/)
  2. Sraman Mitra (http://www.sramanamitra.com/)
  3. WSJ’s VC Dispatch (http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/)
  4. Subroto Bagchi’s Go Kiss the World  (http://www.mindtree.com/subrotobagchi)
  5. And last but not the least, Kawasaki’s ‘How to change the world’ (http://blog.guykawasaki.com/)

Of course, all of this would not be complete without the obligatory ‘caught in the act’ photo of how this used to happen – so here it is for your viewing pleasures 🙂

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Anyways, some of you are probably wondering what all of this has to do with Real-Time Visibility Systems and the goal of enabling RTVS one location at a time – Well, it probably does not at face value but some of the principles that modern thinkers (and doers) like Seth, Subroto, and Guy) influence how we engage with and work with our clients one business at at time – as trusted advisors who can help add value to their existing issues vs. selling them hard to use and modify custom / point solutions focused on $ value rather than client value.

So without any further ado, since we have a lot to catch up to do, let’s look at what’s coming down the pipe over the next month or two:

  1. How Ram Venkatesh (S3Edge CEO) whipped out a cool and snazzy ‘Find It’ RTVS mobile app to track and trace his assets as he moved houses – you do not want to miss this 🙂
  2. Learnings from my upcoming customer visits (will look to share as much as I can in a generic manner given the NDA embargoes ;))
  3. General market musings, stuff cooking in the S3Edge labs, h/w innovations from partners etc. from your truly

And perhaps most importantly, the evolution of the RTVS product suite and solutions as it enters a new avatar with configurable horizontal capabilities that can be easily customized and deployed for a multitude of vertical / client specific business processes, moving more closely to a truly packaged product offering on which turnkey / vertical solutions can easily be designed, deployed and managed.

Hoping to kick off a series of solution oriented webinars (that we’ll host and produce for the first time) with information aimed at adding value to the deployments you are planning while addressing the specifics of the ‘yet to be named’ S3Edge product suite 🙂

Stay tuned for what should be a lot of fun, and as always feel free to ping me if you’d like us to talk about something specific here or have a deeper conversation around a deployment you are planning.

Cheers

/a

P.S> I’ve also recently begun to discover the boon and banes of Twitter –> my blog should now contain yet another Twitter stream for your consideration if you are interested! Look forward to following and being followed 😉

Re-post: Webcast link on S3Edge RTVS Solutions

Given the multiple pings I’ve been receiving lately on the Webinar we did with Microsoft recently (on the S3Edge RTVS solutions and it’s benefits), I’d like to re-post the link on the Webinar for those of you who missed this earlier – you can view the recording by clicking on the link below:

https://rfidjournal.webex.com/rfidjournal/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=32253487&rKey=D21751121AEEACEE

Topics we covered included:

  1. Scenarios and requirements addressed by a Real-Time Visibility System [RTVS]
  2. Components of a RTVS and the S3Edge RTVS software architecture
  3. The Key business characteristics to look for in order to get significant benefits from a RTVS
  4. A 3 phase approach [Observe, Direct, Improve] to get up and running quickly – and get immediate returns with a RTVS
  5. 2 customer case-studies that demonstrates RTVS at work
  6. An insiders look at the packaged flows supported by the S3Edge RTVS applications for Warehouse Ops and Work-in-Process Asset tracking
  7. A quick-start guide to deploy a RTVS

Drop us a line at info@s3edge.com or send me a note, if we can help answer any questions around how we could potentially add value to your requirements around automating existing business processes with real-time visibility from RFID and sensor data.

Cheers

/a

TechEd 2009: Tech-talk take 2 with Sudhir Hasbe

Sudhir Hasbe (Product Manger responsible for the overall RFID business at Microsoft) and I sat down to discuss how S3Edge’s unique packaged, turnkey solutions in the form of Real-Time Visibility Systems [RTVS] are helping customers with vertically integrated manufacturing & logistics operations to start seeing immediate results from “Biztalk RFID Enabled Warehouse Operations and Work-in-Process Tracking” – catch the recording at the URL below and hope you enjoy this as much as we did in creating this!

http://www.msteched.com/online/view.aspx?tid=00945da8-3a3c-49ff-b1d4-35146b9b132c

If you have any questions for Sudhir, he can be reached via his blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/sudhir/ 

Cheers

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