The “slap-and-ship” nature of retailer RFID mandates — where a tag is applied to the box or pallet as it leaves the dock for shipping to the retail outlet — is history.
With the introduction of mobile devices into supply chain management and warehousing, the complexity of RFID environments has grown considerably.
Nowadays logistics managers want to utilise the RFID network more fully, and seamlessly integrate handheld devices in multi-stage logistics processes.
A typical supply chain environment may now include any combination of RFID readers and printers, barcode scanning systems, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), proximity sensors, light stacks, LED message boards and even forklifts.
Such complexities will almost certainly include varying standards, protocols, hardware, and physical requirements, such as the deployment and management of infrastructure at non-traditional locations.
The “always-on, occasionally connected” nature of handheld devices, such as readers, constitutes an additional challenge.
Although most devices are Wi-Fi enabled, it cannot be assumed that they will always be connected to the network.
As a result, increasing emphasis will be placed on on-device agents, which provide the intelligence to enable the device to execute the appropriate logic while it is offline and then relay the collected information to the central warehouse management systems when it is reconnected into the RFID network.
Such an approach also recognises the importance of multi-device support in an end-to-end warehouse management approach.
One solution that delivers these capabilities is Sybase RFID Anywhere.
The RFID platform allows integrators to work with a single software vendor to easily produce robust RFID solutions by abstracting low-level hardware, standards and protocols while providing simulation tools and management capabilities in a service-oriented architecture.
RFID Anywhere was built from the ground up to include the architecture and extensibility to react to the rising number of mobile devices in the supply chain.
Handheld devices can easily be supported by creating new connectors. New standards and protocols that emerge in the RFID space, or new families of hardware devices will be able to be supported by new controllers integrated into RFID Anywhere.
Another groundbreaking capability of RFID Anywhere is the support for vehicle-mounted terminals, for example on forklifts.
The solution allows these devices to work autonomously, dramatically reducing the amount of data that needs to be communicated back to enterprise servers.
A flexible, extensible and scalable middleware platform will become increasingly critical to ensuring success and competitive advantage in the supply chain.
For example, if an organisation invests in the RFID hardware to monitor arriving palettes for an inventory application, the same hardware can be used to support another application in the future without requiring new hardware to be installed.