Tag Archives: RFID 2.0

Talking mission-critical RFID with Impinj

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I had an opportunity recently to talk to the awesome folks at Impinj and share some thoughts around the solutions we’ve been working on – check it out at http://www.impinj.com/blog/ and drop us a note if you have any thoughts / comments or questions,

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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“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”, Sir Victor Hugo 1852

Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Victor_Hugo

Hopefully you are still reading on, curious about what prompted my sudden philosophical leanings after a few months of silence 🙂

Well, simply put – we’ve been HARD AT WORK and the culmination of a 2 year effort is all ready to be unveiled tomorrow – but am not going to let it out just yet (however excited I am about the impact and the relevance to our industry :))

Today, I wanted to bring your attention to 2 recent articles / quotes that caught my eye and are extremely relevant to what we’ve been talking about for a while now: the need for packaged, scalable RFID based solutions for vertical markets

“I think we are evolving from a focus on pure middleware software to more packaged solutions around that middleware,” he told SCDigest. “Having big vendors like Microsoft investing in RFID support for their middleware is helping the solution providers by letting them focus on building the specific solutions for different industry scenarios as opposed to spending all of their time on building the infrastructure. I think this is helping to reduce the time it takes to deliver some of these implementations which can lead to quicker time to value”

  • Michael Dortsch’s statement (and to quote), “(RFID) technology is complex and costly to implement, requiring investments in the chips (ultra-high-frequency tags still run more than 7 cents apiece), readers, software, and new business processes ” in his write-up titled RFID in 2010: Will Anyone Care?”, and of interest to our favorite topic of discussion was Mark Roberti’s (of RFID Journal) response which went something like this:

“RFID needs to be simpler to deploy and more focused on complete solutions. RFID vendors have done a great job of making the technology work better and they have overcome many obstacles to deployment, but for many applications, you still have to buy hardware, software and hire a systems integrator to stitch together a solution.”

Touché! Simply put, the powerful idea whose time has come is:
A packaged offering comprising of hardware, tags and the needed controlling software, that can be quickly deployed with little or no disruption to existing enterprise systems, and dramatically simplifies the way enterprises evaluate and integrate RFID technology into their operations.
And from hereon nothing is going to stop customers from reaping the benefits of real-time technology by leveraging such an offering as their enterprise wide solution platform to enhance the efficiency of their processes for years to come!

Stay tuned – all the details in ~18 hrs time!

Cheers

/a

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A great way to end the year, and usher in what promises to be an exciting and event-filled 2010!

Here’s what one one of our valued customers (Asia’s leading 3PL) had to say about the S3Edge team – To Quote:

  • Commitment to qualityResponsiveness and support is top-class
  • Flexibility Willingness to accommodate changes in requirements and commitment to close up gaps in expectations 
  • RFID domain expertiseTechnical ability in RFID and Biztalk RFID is second to none
  • Device coordinationMost impressed in getting all the different devices to work in a complex environment, shows RTVS indeed has the correct architecture and framework to support this challenging requirement

Could not have scripted it any better to cap off what truly was a remarkable year for our team – Here’s to yet another of adding tangible value to solving end-user problems!

Cheers!

/a

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Er…Isn’t this really about “Execution”?

 

 

Source:IStockPhoto

Like me, I am sure you’ve come across some of the recent articles around why ‘broad adoption’ is taking so long to happen. These articles essentially hint that although RFID a promising technology, it has failed to keep up to it’s promise due to it’s cost and complexity.

Some of these examples include:

RFID in 2010: Will Anyone Care (Who Doesn’t Work for an RFID Company, That Is)?

RFID Makes Slow And Steady Progress

If the Delivery Guy Drops Your Package, Senseaware Updates You Online

While I do not necessarily agree with some of the proposed reasons for the slow pace in adoption (ex: integration with existing LoB systems), this healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing… in fact a very good thing!

Surprised that is coming from a RFID software product vendor? Well you shouldn’t be – there’s more to this than it may at first seem. At the end of the day, a very small % of these deployments are actually succeeding in production and I believe this is due to the the large number of moving pieces and skills required to ‘pull it all together’… in other words, the real problem this industry faces can be boiled down to one word – Execution.

To elaborate, I can see why this might be happening having been on different sides of the fence. Working at Microsoft on the team that developed the RFID platform gave me strategic knowledge and deep insight into how some of the larger companies think about integrating RFID into their environments; My current job at S3Edge gives me a front row seat and tactical knowledge of the rapidly evolving hardware innovation and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day issues that a RFID deployment would need to address to be deployed successfully. My take on this has been documented and discussed in detail in my previous posts, namely:

Michael Dortsch’s statement, “(RFID) technology is complex and costly to implement, requiring investments in the chips (ultra-high-frequency tags still run more than 7 cents apiece), readers, software, and new business processes ” is largely true because of the fact that there have been a proliferation of custom solutions and ‘packaged’ s/w offerings that are hardly configurable or easily customizeable. To date, most of the solutions that are in the market are custom developed from the device-layer up, and these solutions result in high risk and high on-going support costs, which in turn ‘is ‘hindering’ mass adoption… leaving the end-user with something that looks (unfortunately) like this…

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Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom – there are RFID solutions out there that, with a little bit of planning and thought, can help you execute efficiently and effectively.

The most crucial step to ‘success’ is to engage with a software team with deep domain and systems expertise (hardware and software) that understands how to deploy scalable enterprise applications that are closer to the device than the LoB app. In other words, successful RFID deployments are about deploying a scalable software + hardware system that informs the enterprise application of real-world asset movements and helps control / enforce asset operations while being easily configurable and customizable . This approach is fundamentally different from trying to boil the ocean from day 0 with supply chain visibility across various trading partners, as change in process at the same time as change in technology is almost always a bad idea. Another important aspect often overlooked, from an overall successful execution standpoint, is the ability to deploy and manage software on the handheld device while is critical to the success of the overall solution. This is done via instructions to the mobile worker via hand-held / forklift terminal applications in concert with audio / visual cue’s like alarms and lights, while supporting synchronization of data across intermittently connected environments.

In summary, there are a variety of close loop applications focused on hard ROI (namely elimination of errors and increased productivity / operational efficiency due to the utilization of the technology in question (aka RFID) – applications that are adding real value to an organizations short-term and long term goals vs.. being an overhead (put in a different way: Something that the CFO would gladly sign a check for based on hard $ returns) – But it all starts with the small but perhaps the most important detail of identifying the right team that can well, Execute 🙂

In my next post, I will discuss the scenarios and the ROI our early adopter clients are seeing in the vertically integrated manufacturing arena (close loop discrete manufacturing + ware house ops scenarios) – stay tuned and as always send me any comments / thoughts that you may have on the above, or content you’d like to see more of here.

Until next time,

Cheers

/a

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Enabling a proactive Product Recall Solution with RFID

If you’ve been watching any of the TV news channels over the last few days you could not have missed the amount of public outcry / outrage at the peanut contamination  issues or the largest recall ever executed (Govt issues record 2.1M recall for dropside cribs) that have been affecting our daily lives / lifestyle….

In our last post, we sought to seek answers around how a new breed of product recall solutions could be enabled to prevent contaminated goods from reaching us (the end consumers) in the first place  and prevent such unsavory incidents from happening again.

An approach to tackling (and solving) this issue we believe is to utilize the real time visibility that RFID tags can provide in the supply chain to search, locate, and remove tainted goods. Simply put, RFID tags on items (on items or containers of homogeneous items at the time of manufacturing) will provide us the automatic visibility required to ‘track and trace’ goods as they flow through the supply chain, resulting in a observational system that allows for a proactive recall solution to be implemented.

Over the next few paragraphs, I will provide, in ‘tech-speak’, an under the cover look into the moving pieces that need to come together for such a solution to be implemented and adopted across the supply chain. If you are more interested in understanding what you need to do as a manufacturer to put this ‘early warning system’ in place or if you a consumer who is wondering what needs to be done to prevent these tainted goods from reaching you in the first place,   feel free to skip and go straight to the first clip of a live demo that I recorded (working prototype built on top of our existing RTVS based warehouse visibility solution) to showcase the solution at work.

The S3Edge 3 tier “On-Device, On-Premise, On-Demand” architecture is a service oriented approach to deploying and executing Software + Services on device, edge, and cloud to harness operational visibility in real time in your business processes.

The moving pieces in this approach are typically characterized by:

  1. 1. Execution of Physical World Workflow’s On-Device to go from tag or sensor observations to actions
  2. 2. A central workflow controller On-Premise that is responsible for the design and deployment of the physical world workflows in addition to facilitating remote management of RFID and sensor devices
  3. 3. Services On-Demand (i.e. in the cloud) for federated real-time visibility via the cloud. These could be a combination of .NET Services for distributed notifications across firewalls, SQL Data Services for rich data aggregation, and the Windows Azure platform to host applications in the cloud

The “On-Device, On-Premise, On-Demand” architecture thus scales from a basic solution of providing a closed loop On-Premise + On-Device solution for an organization looking to incorporate real time visibility into their business processes within 4 walls to  utilizing Software + Services for federated visibility across the extended enterprise, and revolutionizing the notion of real-time visibility on tap.

At the recently concluded Gartner AADI conference we showcased how a Internet scale ‘search and locate’ application to initiate and execute product recall across the extended enterprise could be designed and executed with Software On-Premise and On-Device, and Services On-Demand (.NET Services + SQL Data Services in the cloud). Key features of the RTVS based Product Recall solution that I demonstrated included:

  • Enabling of supply chain managers to ask: “Where are my products right now?” and get a response back in real-time from distributed locations across the supply chain
  • Publishing of global product recall alerts across the extended enterprise, and enable all affected parties (ex: warehouse managers or retailers)  to get an instantaneous snapshot of “Products within my 4 walls that are dangerous”
  • Abilities for all affected parties to schedule and execute a recall in-house, and be able to provide status to initiator in a secure manner

 

The clips below shows how such a system would work from soup to nuts.

Enjoy and as always keep the conversation going and the questions coming!

Cheers

 

/a

Skype Anush @ AllThingsRTVS

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Slides from MIT Enterprise Forum talk on Multi-Enterprise Visibility

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of presenting an approach for multi-enterprise visibility using S3Edge software in the cloud, on-premise, and on-mobile devices (previous blog post here)

A member of the RTVS Tribe recently pointed out to me that the URL for the slides from the Auto ID website (http://autoid.mit.edu/cs/) was broken (thank you Mike!) – Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

 

 

If you are interested in more slides on S3Edge software / approach to building and deploying Real-Time Visibility Systems, check out my earlier blog post on S3 Edge Software Explained or the following links to case studies for Warehouse Visibility and Work-in-Process asset tracking solutions that have been deployed at Rite-Care Pharmacy and GkB Hi-tech / Carl Zeiss

· Pharmacy Chain Cuts Order Turnaround Time in Half with Mobile RFID Workflow Solution

· Lens Manufacturer Optimizes Order Management with RFID Technology

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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