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Microsoft bolsters RFID effort

The radio frequency identification (RFID) bandwagon continues to attract a crowd.

Last week, Oracle announced a new product and services initiative around RFID and what it calls "sensor-based" technologies. This week, it is Microsoft's turn. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker disclosed the creation of an internal RFID group, called the Microsoft Radio Frequency Identification Council, whose purpose is to "bring together major partners delivering RFID solutions on the Microsoft platform."

Microsoft says the group "will look at RFID requirements and how to take advantage of today's technology to make it easier for retailers and manufacturers to track and ship merchandise."

The new group will support Microsoft's goal of equipping its own software package -- including SQL Server database, BizTalk Server business process management system and Windows CE device operating system -- with the ability to process volumes of data from RFID systems. But the firm also announced its intention to support what it calls a growing "ecosystem" of partners creating RFID-based products and services on the Windows platform. Microsoft cited several partner examples, including Accenture, GlobeRanger, HighJump Software, Intermec Technologies, Manhattan Associates and Provia Software, all of whom will participate in the work of the RFID Council.

An ecosystem of partners -- spanning RFID hardware vendors, supply-chain execution retail systems and services providers -- is using the Microsoft platform today to add value to their RFID solutions through Microsoft technologies.

"With RFID in the early stages of adoption, we are continuing to expand and evolve our partner-driven strategy based on the needs of the industry," said Javed Sikander, program manager for RFID strategy at Microsoft. "There is a wide spectrum of partners building RFID solutions on the Microsoft platform today; the formation of the Microsoft RFID Council is part of our commitment to continue to work closely with our customers and partners to ensure that they receive the greatest value and opportunity when building their RFID solutions with Microsoft technologies."

RFID first appeared in tracking and access applications during the 1980s. Modern RFID systems consist of three components: an antenna or coil, a transceiver (with decoder) and a transponder -- also known as an RF tag, an electronic label or code plate -- that is electronically programmed with unique information.

The technology has been used in a wide range of markets, including livestock identification and automated vehicle identification systems, because of its ability to track moving objects. Its potential today lies in its application in the retail industry for product tags.

Microsoft also announced that it has joined EPCglobal (Electronic Product Code), an industry organization that monitors RFID standards. Microsoft joined the organization in March.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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