When I wrote about RFID's mostly unfulfilled potential last summer, I quoted consultant Greg Malkary, who listed three things he felt were needed to move RFID forward: "a full embrace of these technologies, better partnership with vendors and a new level of middleware that can glue everything together." Item No. 3 sounded especially important because, as Malkary pointed out, expensive custom code was required to connect the data dots and feed information gathered by RFID sensors into business systems where it could do some actual good.
No question, the difficulties of integrating RFID data with other systems has been one of the biggest sticking points associated with the technology. IBM just introduced new middleware called WebSphere Sensor Events, which can connect RFID data to a business process and analytics system, where in theory it can be used to generate automated responses based on pre-programmed rules and events.
In addition to exporting data to Big Blue's own Cognos and Smart Analytics System platforms, Sensor Events can also make RFID data available to third-party applications, including enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, according to PCWorld.
Sensor Events isn't a new product. IBM has sold it for several years, but the addition of complex event processing (CEP) technology obtained by IBM when it acquired AptSoft in 2008 opens up new possibilities. Big Blue is using RFID to monitor assets in its own data centers, an application many experts think will become more popular due to the transparency requirements of legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Of course, cost remains a sticking point with RFID, as I wrote in June. I don't think we'll see a "full embrace" of RFID until the cost comes down. Price tag for WebSphere Sensor Events: $20,000 for a single-site implementation and $150,000 for an unlimited-site version, which is priced according to the processing power involved, according to PCWorld.