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Sun's New RFID Software Allows Edge Devices to Process Info

The RFID revolution may have a price: network data overload. As radio frequency identification technologies proliferate, the torrent of information generated by the world's burgeoning bevy of RFID tags threatens to clog the corporate net.

One solution, says Vijay Sarathy, marketing manager in Sun Microsystems' RFID group, is to move some of the data processing to the RFID readers.

"The idea is to allow Java technology-enabled RFID devices to intelligently process and filter the data they collect, instead of relying on external middleware," Sarathy tells AppTrends. "Our approach takes advantage of the capabilities of Java to shield the network from the potential data avalanche generated by large-scale RFID deployments."

Sun is adding this edge-of-the-network data processing capability to its RFID software. Called the Sun Java System RFID Software for Java technology-enabled RFID devices, it extends Java System RFID Software 2.0 with a distributed architecture that allows RFID data processing to be performed where it makes the most sense, Sarathy explains. "Sometimes it's at the device level, sometimes it's at the enterprise level, and sometimes it's in between," he says.

The new version extends Sun’s Standard Edition and Micro Edition, and supports EPCglobal application level events specifications for intelligent data processing and filtering. It can also integrate with the enterprise version of the Sun Java System RFID Software to provide centralized monitoring and management of large numbers of distributed devices.

Sun has made a big commitment to RFID, a radio frequency-based method of storing and retrieving data using small objects called tags. Sun rolled out its first RFID software product in mid-2003. A year later, the company opened a 17,000-square-foot, RFID-enabled warehouse testing facility in Dallas.

RFID is currently used for everything from pet locators and auto anti-theft systems to library book trackers and toll-booth fast passes. Retailers and pharmaceutical companies are among the leading verticals to embrace RFID.

A recent report from industry analysts at IDC, "The Impact of RFID on the Network," warns that the increasing volumes of data generated by the spread of RFID tags could seriously challenge an organization's ability to process and interpret the information, and even compromise the network’s ability to handle other critical tasks. The introduction of RFID-based systems increases the need for network resiliency, the report finds, in order to deliver online information whenever a tag requests it. The report also suggests that storage needs in companies with large-scale RFID implementations will need to be flexible and scalable.

These consequences are unlikely to slow the growth of RFID, which Sam Liu, Sun's director of RFID product management, calls "a disruptive technology that will revolutionize the network and the way companies do business." Sun points to a recent study by Datamonitor, which concludes that large companies and governments will spend about $6 billion on RFID hardware, software and services by 2010. Venture Development Corporation has predicted that the device market alone will be worth $700 million in 2005.

Java technology is installed in on more than two billion embedded devices, Sarathy points out, up by 14 percent since June 2004.

The Sun Java System RFID Software for Java technology-enabled RFID devices is available now for Java SE technology and will be available in early access for Java ME at the end of summer 2005. It’s also available on the Solaris OS and Linux. For more information, go to: www.sun.com/rfid.

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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