Unwired Tap – April 2004

Published in TDAN.com April 2004

“RFID – Coming to a Location Near You – SOON!”

OK, the portability crisis is passing and the processes around moving from one provider to another are getting smoothed out. So what is one of the next areas of the wireless world that will have an
impact on our lives in the future? My guess is RFID. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It is simply embedding a chip or a tag that can be used primarily for tracking, into a product.
Sounds simple enough and we know that cellular phones are beginning to have global positioning capabilities built into them so what is the big deal? The big deal is how this technology will be used
and what it will be used for in the future.

Well, where is RFID on the radar screen for technology, businesses and – of course – the political and security areas? I’ll touch briefly on each of these areas and give you
articles to read in the Wireless Nuggets of Knowledge area if you want to explore an area in more depth.

Technology is beginning to warm up to RFID in a big way. The recent CeBIT 2004 show in Hannover Germany had RFID emerge as one of its major focal points. An article by Dennis Callaghan, eWeek March 19, 2004, gives a nice overview of the impact that RFID was having at this show. Dennis pointed out that
“Developers of business application software, mobile phones and security software all demonstrated new offerings that use the technology”. Some of the major areas that he pointed out
were:

  • Nokia Corp. launched its Mobile RFID Kit, designed to turn the Nokia 5140 GSM mobile phone into an RFID reader for field force personnel.
  • One of the key capabilities of SAP AG’s NetWeaver 2004 release announced is integration with the company’s Auto-ID infrastructure, which will allow customers to integrate RFID data into their
    business applications.
  • PeopleSoft Inc. likewise announced support for attaching RFID tags to outbound shipments in its EnterpriseOne 8.10 release.
  • Large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, along with the Department of Defense, have mandated that their suppliers attach RFID tags to assist in order tracking and supply-chain management.
  • But the RFID craze at CeBIT extended beyond the supply chain. RSA Security Inc., a pioneer in RFID, demonstrated a prototype called the RFID Blocker Tag.

Business is beginning to warm, or be warmed depending on which side of the edict you are on, up to the idea of RFID technology. Larry Dignan and Kim S. Nash give a good overview of some of the
myths behind RFID technology in their article such as:

  • There is No ROI for RFID
  • RFID Will be Widely Adopted in 2005
  • Setting Standards Will Be Easy
  • The Read Rate is 100 percent

In this article Larry and Kim talk about Procter & Gamble and how it is ‘being warmed up” to RFID. “Procter & Gamble will be busy in the first months of 2004 determining
how radio-frequency identification systems work. As one of Wal-Mart’s top 100 suppliers, Procter & Gamble faces a January 2005 deadline to place tags containing chips and tiny antennae on the
cases and pallets of household products shipped to the world’s largest retailer”. Practical experience such as the prototyping being undertaken by Procter & Gamble and other companies
will show us the return and the pitfalls of RFID technology in the practical world in which we live.

Since this is an election year every subject worth talking about must have a political component. RFID is no different. So far there are no laws or federal actions relating to RFID technology. An
article by Claire Swederg, RFID Journal March 24, 2004, reviews a recent address at the Georgetown University Law
Center by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who called for a national debate on RFID technology and the privacy issues related to its use. Some of the points that are identified in the article
give us an interesting glimpse into the RFID technology timeline, current and potential uses and some of the concerns:

  • “Congress might need to take action if members find significant privacy protection concerns arising from the swift emergence of RFID technology.”
  • “Current uses of RFID chips and technology such as identifying pets, paying bridge and highway tolls and buying fuel at gas stations”
  • “Concern about practices under way in which manufacturers such as Max Factor have used test RFID tags on their lipsticks to track movement of the products in stores.”
  • “While we might want the Pentagon to be able to manage its supplies with RFID tags, we would not want an al Qaeda operative to find out about our resources by simply using a hidden RFID
    scanner in a war situation.”
  • Where will the RFID story go from here? It is hard to tell but there are good business drivers behind the use of the technology, a technology sector that seems to be gearing up to support the
    industry and a wary eye being cast by the politicians so I can promise you that the story will not end soon and will have many twists and turns before it settles down.

If you have any first hand experience with RFID technology that you would like to share with other send me an email and I will update everyone in a future
column.

 

Wireless Nuggets of Knowledge:
Following are a few interesting articles and discussions on wireless and the year ahead of us:

  • CRN News Update – January 27, 2004
    Migrating Toward 802.11iCorporate enthusiasm for wireless LANs has been tempered by well-publicized — and well-founded — concerns about security. Those concerns are
    evaporating as a quartet of new wireless security protocols are falling into place, but migrating to those standards takes some planning, experts agree
    .
    To read more click here
  • Reuters – January 27, 2004
    New Wireless Standard to Carry Cable TV SignalA new wireless technology with enough bandwidth to carry cable television signals from a wall-mounted outlet to a TV anywhere
    in the home could be on the market as early as next year, an industry group said Tuesday.

    To read more click here
  • eWeek Enterprise News and Reviews – December 15, 2003
    Wal-Mart’s RFID Deadline: A Chunky MessYou can’t put a radio tag on a can of soup. That’s just one technical tidbit Campbell Soup Co. is digesting as it investigates
    using so-called smart labels to better track its products from factory to retail outlet. It affects how Campbell will find a suitable way to put metallic tags on all its products–to satisfy
    its biggest customer, Wal-Mart Stores.

    Wal-Mart accounts for 12 percent of Campbell’s annual sales of $6.7 billion. The world’s largest company has given Campbell and the rest of its 100 largest suppliers until January 2005 to
    track their products using tiny pieces of circuitry that contain identification codes and can be scanned by radio waves at any time.

    To read more click here

  • eWeek Wireless Update – March 17, 2004
    Nokia Embraces RFIDNokia Corp. announced the addition of RFID capabilities to one of its GSM mobile phones here on Wednesday at the CeBIT show.

    The company launched the Nokia Mobile RFID Kit, which will integrate with its 5140 model global system for mobile communications mobile phone. The kit includes two Xpress-on radio frequency
    identification Reader Shells compatible with the 5140, application software for the phone and 20 RFID tags.

    Nokia is targeting the kit to field-force personnel, who would use it to read the content of RFID tags and translate that content into action, such as launching a phone browser or dialing and
    sending messages automatically, Nokia officials said.

    The phone also can be used to collect meter data for utility companies or to record time and attendance, officials said.
    To read more click here

  • FierceWireless – March 19, 2004
    AMD to launch free hotspot service – According to a report in The Register, chip maker AMD has quietly deployed its own network of public hotspots, which it plans to offer to the public free of
    charge. The company will supposedly launch its free hotspot service next month. Most of AMD’s hotspots are in independent coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. In exchange for free hotspot
    access, all locations offering AMD’s service agree to market AMD’s WiFi business division, Personal Connectivity Solutions (PCS), and the company’s WiFi chipsets with prominent logos. AMD is
    putting up a tough fight against Intel’s Centrino marketing machine, pushing its own WiFi products and services. The chip maker recently said that it will take advantage of Intel’s planned
    boycott of the Chinese WiFi market by working with Chinese firms to launch WAPI-compliant WiFi products.
    To read more click here
  • eWeek – March 12, 2004
    Wireless USB – The Next Video Data Channel?Following the formation of a consortium to develop wireless USB technology, Intel Corp. is providing more details about
    when a specification and the first products will arrive. The consortium, announced at February’s Intel Developer Forum conference in San Francisco, is called the Wireless USB Promoter Group.
    Other members include Agere Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, NEC, Philips Semiconductors and Samsung Electronics.

    Wireless USB (WUSB) is intended to bring data rates comparable to USB 2.0’s to tasks such as wirelessly trafficking multiple video and media streams between consumer electronics devices,
    PCs and peripherals. It’s been characterized as a direct competitor to the Bluetooth wireless standard, but there are big performance differences, according to Jeff Ravencraft, Intel
    technology strategist and USB-IF chairman.

    Ravencraft says the expected data rate of Wireless USB is 480M bps at a range of two meters and 110M bps at 10 meters. As with Wi-Fi technology, placing wireless USB devices farther apart will
    degrade performance. Current wired USB technology provides data rates of about 48M bps.
    To read more click here

  • Yahoo! News – March 19, 2004
    Move Over 3G, here Comes WiMAX – Just when mobile operators are finally getting their costly third-generation (3G) networks up and running, a new wireless technology pushed by the computer
    industry is about to mess things up.
    To read more click here
  • Yahoo! News – March 21, 2004
    Mobile Industry Focuses on Fixing BasicsThe Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) trade show in Atlanta began March 22, 2004. Gee-whiz gadgetry like
    TV on cell phones were overshadowed by more pedestrian concerns like on-the-go convenience and fewer dropped calls as the U.S. wireless industry meets for its big annual showcase.

    To read more click here

 

Wireless Info Center:
Here are some other articles that you might find interesting:

Here are some resource links to Mobile & Wireless info areas:

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About Robert Dominko

Robert S. Dominko, PMP, is a Principal Consultant for CIBER, Inc. in CIBER’s Global Enterprise Integration Practice located in Denver, CO.  He is a member of CIBER’s National Mobile/Wireless Team as well as CIBER’s Global Enterprise Integration Practice. Bob has extensive experience in the consulting industry where he has worked in roles such as Director of MIS, Program/Project Manager, Technical Architect, Data Warehousing Technologist, Business Analyst in global travel and hospitality, automotive, healthcare services, financial, bank card services, utilities, marketing, insurance, human resources, manufacturing, state and federal government. You can contact Bob at RDominko@ciber.com.

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