RFID in the Cloud


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Many times I find myself thinking about RFID as the technology itself and not about the true product it produces. Not surprising from a sales role, as getting the right equipment into someone’s hands is one of the first key steps. But almost as soon as we start to clear that first hurdle of finding the right product to fit the application, the next important question comes to light: Data.

Now of course the first obvious question is: “what data do you want to collect?” which makes logical sense. But sometimes another important set of questions get overlooked in regards to the amount of data that will inevitably be created. What do you want to do with all the data collected and where do you want to keep it?

For some users this can be obvious, “on our servers for archive purposes”. But frankly, this can be a very short sighted answer. It’s like collecting wealth simply for the sake of it. As we all know, information is a powerful thing and how we use it can determine progression or stagnation to say the least. While at IMTS this year, Balluff demonstrated the use a something called a Cloud Computing using a Cloud Site with a partner named I-Gear.

The reason for this demonstration was to show just one of the many valuable ways to use the data you can collect. For example, let’s say you are an OEM and you embed an RFID reader into your machine to read a RFID label tag placed on a consumable used in the machine, the old razor blade model if you will, but with a twist. Not only can you track the usage, you can also make sure it is the correct kind and not a counterfeit of any kind. Why not take that to the next level and have the owner connect the machine to the Internet to allow you to track the data. Not only would you be able to report this information to the customer, you could also track statistics of usage and even combine this with diagnostics. But how do you manage and display all the data?

Another example would be an OEM who places RFID on their high value product so distribution and service persons can recognize and track these products once they leave the factory. They can see which distributor handled the product, how often it has been serviced, who and what was serviced over the life of the product. Again, all these data possibilities are created, but how and where do you manage all this data?

This is where Cloud Computing and Cloud Sites come in. A Cloud Site can be simply thought of as a server farm not owned or maintained by you. In fact, many times you are simply leasing space on secure servers with others like many do today to host a website for example. This can greatly reduce your startup costs as well as the drain that can be put on your IT staff. The idea of Cloud Computing is that you can send and access the data from anywhere with basically any method at your disposal with the limits you wish to impose. For example, security of this data can be as tight or a loose as you choose and access can be granted as needed.

For the first example, imagine being able to have a sales person bring up the amount of consumables and statistics about their machines right in front of the customer using his smart phone. For the second example, you could have a secure website a distributor or service person could bring up using a field hand-held device showing any data needed for the products they sell or service. Cloud Computing provides a means by which to collect and use the data from many different data rich scenarios. And most importantly, removes a technology and cost barrier many think exist or can only be overcome by big resource rich corporations when it comes to hardware and know-how.

Cloud Computing provides a cost effective technology and information solution to handling and using data collected with RFID. Consider this option when developing your next RFID implementation.

Click here to learn more about Balluff industrial RFID.
Click here to learn more about I-Gear’s product interfacing solutions.
Click here to learn more about Cloud Computing.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Mark,

    I found an article “A Cloud Computing Architecture Framework for Scalable RFID” (http://bit.ly/CloudFrameworkRFID) which is worth reading.
    My company – ubigrate – is proud to be a solution partner of BALLUFF. Our framework Geqoo (www.geqoo.de) works how described in the mentioned article.

    Best Regards
    Sven

  2. Mark,

    Great article. I do believe that adoption of the cloud is going to increase dramatically at the Enterprise level. Look no further than the U.S. Government recently announcing their ‘cloud first’ policy. They are basically saying that when it comes to IT infrastructure, they’re looking at cloud services first.

    Their goal is to reduce datacenter size by 40 percent which would result in consolidation of 2,000 government datacenters resulting in cost savings and increased efficiency.

    RFID and supply chain management definitely have a place in that equation, and I do believe we’re going to see a ramp in adoption of the cloud outside of the government as well.

  3. Really appreciate you sharing this post.

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