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IBM alphaWorks Helps Developers Ramp Up RFID Skills

Developers interested in getting up to speed on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology have a new resource: IBM's alphaWorks Web site. IBM is using its online, emerging technology showcase to provide free downloads of new tools and training on the development, testing, deployment, and management of RFID solutions.

IBM decided to offer the RFID resources after one of its regular market surveys turned up a high level of interest in the technology, says Chris Spencer, emerging technologies strategist for alphaWorks.

“The results of the survey made us scratch our heads a bit,” Spencer tells AppTrends. “Why would developers suddenly be clamoring for information about RFID?”

The answer, IBM found, was in the momentum of RFID technology deployments in large enterprises outpacing the skill sets of the developers in their partner organizations.

“All these large enterprise have RFID infrastructures in place and solutions deployed, but to leverage the value, they need to get all of their partners to plug in,” Spencer says. “But those partner companies now facing a need to integrate with the large enterprises don't have the in-house expertise. RFID application developers aren't exactly falling out of the trees right now.”

At least one analyst firm–Aberdeen Group–has survey results that support this conclusion. In a recently published report, the firm noted that a shortage of internal RFID skills has become an obstacle in the adoption of the technology in some companies.

In another report, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) cited the results of survey earlier this year of solution providers, consultants, system integrators, and end-users of RFID technology, which found that RFID deployments continue to be hampered by a shortage of individuals skilled in the technology.

“There remains an elephant in the room that organizations have only recently begun to notice and it’s large enough to threaten the success of many RFID projects,” said CompTIA vice president David Sommer in a statement.”

The RFID resources IBM is now providing on the alphaWorks site include:

  • The RFID Integrated Solution Enablement (RISE) tool, which allows developers to simulate how an RFID solution would function in a particular environment, using the WebSphere graphical user interface. RISE also includes a testing component and resources to assist with deployment.
  • The RFID Device Development Toolkit, which incorporates a repository of more than 300 RFID-specific resources, technical articles and tutorials that detail the steps involved in the proper development of RFID applications.
  • The Application Level Events (ALE) Preview for RFID, which lets developers create applications that read and filter data from RFID devices and display event notices on a Web browser.

IBM launched its alphaWorks Web site in 1996 as an emerging technology showcase for its own software developers. A component of IBM’s developerWorks, alphaWorks is where Big Blue publishes early implementations of technologies and research prototypes primarily for early adopters.

In 2005, the company began adding “research topics” on the site, which include technology downloads, demonstrations, articles, and researcher profiles to help developers and academia learn about new technologies and trends–and the new RFID resources.

The alphaWorks site is part of IBM’s developer network, which the company reports has nearly 5.5 million registered users worldwide. According to IBM, more than 90 of the Fortune 100 companies access alphaWorks technologies.

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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