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RFID Middleware Battleground Emerges

Radio frequency identification (RFID) hype has created a new market for middleware, according to a new Forrester Research report.

The report, called "Evaluating RFID Middleware," argues that moves by large industry players like Wal-Mart to embrace RFID have created a short-term urgency that doesn't necessarily address the big picture. As a result, RFID middleware is positioning itself as a longer-term solution that allow enterprises to take better advantage of term benefits of RFID implementation.

Forrester surveyed RFID industry players ConnecTerra, GlobeRanger, IBM, Manhattan Associates, Microsoft, OATSystems, Oracle, RF Code, SAP, Savi Technology, Sun Microsystems, TIBCO Software and webMethods as part of its study. The firm found that RFID middleware still needs to mature to include a deeper set of capabilities than the early RFID solutions focused on.

"Many suppliers have found themselves in a position in which -- in the short term -- they must implement RFID to comply with high-profile mandates," said Sharyn Leaver, Forrester Research vice president and research director. "In order to gain long-term benefits, these suppliers need to intelligently incorporate the data they are collecting to make improvements to their overall business processes. RFID middleware is the tool that companies will use to manage RFID data by routing it between tag readers and the multitude of systems within their businesses."

Forrester ranked Manhattan Associates, OATSystems, and SAP as leaders among the early adopters of RFID. The report found that solutions for these vendors, "strike a balance between core middleware features like reader integration and data filtering and capabilities that resemble applications like EPC commissioning and track-and-trace tools."

According to Forrester, SAP holds the lead position for long-term RFID middleware success based on its experience, which covers both infrastructure and applications.

When looking beyond the first movers and early adopters, Forrester believes that Microsoft, IBM and Oracle will eventually take their rightful place in RFID leadership, as their solutions are released throughout the remainder of the year.

Early-adopter leaders Manhattan Associates and OATSystem will remain viable in the long term, according to Forrester, by integrating their offerings in larger solutions and platforms from Oracle, IBM, TIBCO or webMethods.

The maturation of RFID extends beyond the middleware layer. Professional services surrounding the nascent technology are also maturing and growing. According to a report issued last week by ABI Research, the third phase of RFID adoption is under way, which has resulted in huge growth for the RFID consulting services.