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RFID, SOA And Sussing The Data Soup

RFID systems  came along years after somebody coined that old enterprise IT axiom about not becoming data rich and information poor in your database environment.

But these days, the technology brings new meaning to the saying, thanks to the velocity with which RFID tags and sensors are scraping, pumping then dumping data from supply chains into businesses' data silos.

IBM , already putting plenty of financial muscle behind its RFID products and systems, sees an opportunity to lift some sense out of the data sloshing around customers' systems. The company just released server software that helps customers sift massive amounts of data from tags and sensors in order to turn it into business intelligence and, hopefully, better decisions.

It's called the WebSphere RFID Premises Server V6.0. It works by aggregating and analyzing massive amounts of RFID and other sensor information from every corner of an enterprise. The software, IBM said during the RFID World Conference today, could help companies discover business insight from the data exploding into their systems thanks to RFID tags.

Once it has the data, IBM officials explained, the server system applies business logic (built in), which comes in handy if the business is already leveraging a service-oriented architecture .

"This is about shifting the focus from the technology itself to the value proposition of the data," said Scott Burroughs, a director in IBM's sensors & actuators solutions strategy, which is part of IBM's software division. "Traditionally, RFID has been a standalone implementation. Basically, you use it offline," he told internetnews.com.

But now, it's being integrated into all kinds of businesses, soup to nuts up and down the supply chain. Take the pharmaceutical industry, Burroughs continued. "They can now track vials all the way to the way out to the pharmacy and generate a system of records. They have a full set of transfers and a database of shared information."

But how to use it with all the data? That's the sweet spot many vendors such as Sun Microsystems  and HP  are targeting with middleware lines that help sort the data and integrate it with other database systems. With this server release, Big Blue is playing up WebSphere RFID Premises Server V6.0's ability to integrate the raw data coming in from the RFID systems with other enterprise applications, such as ERP or billing systems.

"We see RFID as another type of data," he added. "We want innovators to ask, 'Now that I have this data, how can I better use it?'"

IBM said the Premises Server is a result of collaboration with RFID client, METRO Group. IBM officials said with the WebSphere RFID Information Center it released in December, and now the Premises Server V6.0, the idea is to enable clients to not only manage their data, but share it with key trading partners, securely.

Just about every major database, software and systems vendor is piling into RFID product systems at some stage of its ecosystem. Sybase, for example, recently unveiled RFID Anywhere 3.0, which helps users track assets from traditional passive RFID systems and add real-time locations.

HP Labs recently unveiled a wireless chip that could make audio and visual information, including text, easier to access.

IBM's latest server product also arrives when the universe of data is truly exploding. IDC recently released a report, sponsored by information management vendor EMC, forecasting that as much as 988 billion gigabytes of digital information would be created within three years. That's a six-fold increase from 2006. It's a bonanza for information management technology.