RealTime IT News

RFID 101 Classes in Session

IBM  is on a mission to push the adoption of advanced telematics, such as sensors, actuators and other networked devices. Oh yeah, and it wants to do it with RFID-enabled  applications.

Sounds great, but what if developers' skill sets aren't quite up to speed on building applications for the Internet world of RFID? In IBM's case, you start a kind of a virtual school for RFID development.

Big Blue is pushing three new RFID tutorials out via its alphaworks.com developer site, which counts some 5.5 million registered users.

Chris Spencer, emerging technologies Strategist for IBM's alphaWorks program, said the tools are designed to drive the development of critical IT skills at a time when RFID adoption is growing.

Research firm In-Stat estimates that some 33 billion radio tags will be produced within four years, up by about 95 percent from the 1.5 billion RFID tags it counted in use in 2005.

For many developers trying to integrate RFID data within their existing IT infrastructure, it really is the integration portion that they're working on understanding, Spencer told internetnews.com.

"It really gets magnified when you start talking about more [RFID devices] that are pushed to the edge of a network," he said.

Developers are trying to figure out, for example, "how you handle integrating data coming from distribution centers and feed that back to your partners?"

This is a big issue with big retailers. After all, thanks to Wal-Mart's adoption of RFID systems, trading partners have little choice to integrate their systems if they want to trade with the retailing giant.

Their environments become more complex with each sensor that pumps even more data into their already data-rich systems.

The alphaworks.com tutorials are designed for three levels, all of which assume a level of proficiency with Websphere, IBM's own toolset for building Web services  applications.

Spencer said the first tutorial is a graphics tool that simulates for developers how an RFID system works, and how it might apply to specific lines of businesses. Call it RFID for Websphere 101.

Another toolkit is geared for teaching developers how to develop those RFID-enabled applications, including best practices for RFID systems.

This may be useful to a developer who is skilled in Web services application development, but needs an understanding about how to use Websphere tools for Web services and RFID systems.

The third tutorial on the site is a tool that actually enables developers to create applications that are ready to interact and respond to the events that take place within a given RFID system.

That means it is also capable of helping developers test the apps before they go live.

Hopefully, the tutorials will address what David Sommer, vice president of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), called the "the elephant in the room that organizations have only recently begun to notice," as part of IBM's release.

The industry trade group said its own surveys show that a shortage of individuals skilled in the RFID continue to hamper the technology's deployments.