Software Vendors Tout Their RFID Wares

Sun Microsystems released this week its Sun Java RFID (radio frequency identification) Software 3.0, the latest update of a middleware product that debuted two years ago. The software links RFID tag-reading devices with back-end enterprise applications like supply-chain management systems.

This week's update adds native support for SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure system, easing the management burden of using Sun's software with SAP's ERP applications. Users previously had to rely on standard protocols or middleware to link the two systems. The new update also adds support for Java ME (Micro Edition) devices.

Industrial data-communications hardware maker Comtrol, based in Minneapolis, recently selected Sun's Java RFID Software for use in its new EdgeWare controllers, which link RFID devices with back-end ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. The technology is intended to ease the task of turning RFID-gathered information from warehouses and plant floors into usable, high-level corporate operations data.

Sun's broad support of SAP and a number of other software systems was a major factor in the software's selection, according to Bradford Beale, Comtrol's vice president of global sales.

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"The device interface componentry that it has built in was significant for us because it opened up the ability to talk with some of the most popular RFID readers on the market right now," he said.

Over the past year, Sun is seeing signs that customers are expanding their RFID projects beyond test phases, increasing the need for enterprise-level integration features like Sun's SAP hookup, said Sun RFID Products Director Sam Liu.

"Two years ago, it was more about education and pilot projects," Liu said during a break from walking the show's floor. "Just recently, over the last six to eight months, we've seen more inquiries from customers that are concerned not with the physical aspects of RFID readers and tags, but with data integration issues. We're seeing more activity around that. Some [customers] are moving from the pilot to the controlled-production phase."

Sybase took the wraps off its own RFID software update this week, RFID Enterprise 2.0. The software helps users manage, store and analyze RFID-gathered data. Meanwhile, BEA Systems showcased the BEA WebLogic RFID product line it built around the ConnecTerra middleware technology it acquired in October. BEA's WebLogic RFID portfolio comprises three products: the Edge Server for infrastructure management, the Enterprise Server for centralizing data collected at enterprise "edges" like warehouses and other distributed tagging points, and Compliance Express, a module for monitoring regulatory compliance.