Is RFID Still Important?

RFID was all the rage in 2004 until about 2006. With Wal-Mart pushing, RFID was constantly making headlines. Even Microsoft jumped deeply into RFID. In the 2005 TechEd, Microsoft unwrapped their RFID infrastructure built on SQL Server and .NET. It is now 2008 and the buzz on RFID seems to have all but disappeared. Even Google Trends shows a downward slop for RFID.

I asked Sudhir Hasbe, Sr. Product Manager BizTalk RFID at Microsoft, a few questions regarding RFID.

Q: Is RFID less important today than it was in 2006?

A: Today RFID is relevant to a broader audience and the conversation is moving from bits to business relevance. Over the past year we have seen the industry breakdown the barriers of RFID adoption (people, partner, price). Cost is decreasing based on RFID becoming more mainstream. Hardware prices going down, software reliability going up and the overall complexity for customers in simplifying.

What business today needs is visibility into every aspect of the operation regardless of the size of the business or the industry in which they operate whether it’s pallets in a warehouse, designer jackets in a retail store, or sushi plates in a restaurant. RFID has become a core enabler for driving better business decision. Business need to combine the intelligence of RFID with the power of process server; such as BizTalk Server. BizTalk Server is the heart that pumps RFID intelligence through the business.

Q: Is Microsoft still investing in RFID?

A: Absolutely, we are constantly investing in our products and our ecosystem. Our primary focus is on delivering rich experiences in BizTalk Server RFID, although we are always mindful of future releases. As such, we are working closely with customers and partners to ensure BizTalk Server RFID as well as future releases, continue to raise the bar when it comes to addressing the business process management needs of our users. Partners are central to our RFID strategy. BizTalk Server RFID & BizTalk RFID Mobile will provide opportunities for RFID partners specializing in hardware, and software. Microsoft is actively working with industry leaders to ensure that RFID delivers business value to our customers.

Q: It 2005-2006 it seemed like everyone was being told that they should care about RFID. Should today’s average corporate developer care about RFID at this point?

A: Developers need to integrate RFID capabilities with their existing infrastructure in order to richly leverage real-time RFID content to improve events, business processes and data. In trying to meet those needs, it became apparent that the best way to address this customer need in a cost effective manner was to deliver Microsoft’s RFID capabilities within the context of its broader business processes. By taking this approach, customers can leverage BizTalk Server to integrate RFID capabilities and into relevant business data.

By integrating RFID capability with BizTalk Server, Microsoft is in a position to deliver industry-leading capabilities and reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to its customer base. For customers, this translates into several benefits that differentiate Microsoft from the competition:

  • “Plug-and-Play” Experience: Customers investing in the Microsoft platform and its RFID solution will enjoy a rich device enablement experience, simplifying the device discovery and management experience available on the Microsoft platform.
  • Rich Ecosystem: Microsoft customers enjoy an extensive ecosystem of hardware and software vendors, Global System Integrators (SI’s) and Independent Software Vendor (ISV). BizTalk RFID and its diverse ecosystem enables customers to rapidly build and deploy solutions across boundaries—internal silos, firewalls, vertical markets—while driving down the TCO of RFID solutions.
  • End-to-End Solution: By implementing BizTalk RFID within its Microsoft’s Application Platform, customers benefit from deep integration with existing Microsoft application investments and can more readily realize a holistic, end-to-end solution.

Q: Is Microsoft doing anything cool in the RFID space?

A: Yes, At RFID Journal Live in April, Microsoft announced BizTalk RFID Mobile, which allows customers to extend the business insight provided by RFID technology to the farthest edges of the business, with a platform for real-time decision making. BizTalk RFID Mobile is an RFID platform for Windows Mobile and CE. BizTalk RFID Mobile consists of a runtime engine, tools, and components to develop, deploy, and manage RFID solutions on mobile devices. BizTalk RFID Mobile extends management and event processing to mobile devices and allows communication between the server and mobile platforms. Final availability is expected in the fourth quarter (Q4) of calendar year 2008.

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