More devices mean more data. More data, however, doesn't always mean better results. Sometimes, more data simply means more data for personnel to monitor, sort through, store, and dispose of when it's no longer needed. Radio frequency identification systems have contributed to data overload. There are solutions.
The key questions become:
How do businesses optimize investments in RFID systems, sensors and other assets?
Can you combine the data generated by these devices to better analyze the results?
How can businesses or government agencies integrate data, so event and policy-based actions meet their needs as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Unfortunately, many executives chose to run operations on standalone systems with disparate displays and user interfaces, hoping they can analyze data and quickly respond to company needs. Other businesses attempt to integrate data from several systems, spending a great deal of resources on integrating a solution that involves a significant amount of engineering, software development and network equipment installation.
Either way, the businesses lose. In the first scenario, they lose the ability to respond rapidly. In the second, they waste both money and time.
Today, however, this need not be the case. There are new technologies and networking concepts available to businesses and government agencies to support dynamic security, monitoring and asset tracking applications. Today, a business can rapidly deploy an affordable application consisting of new and legacy systems that automates system actions and decreases response times.
Creating an intelligent, converged system is much easier and more affordable than one might think. The first step is to understand the challenges involved in advancing convergence initiatives, and the limitations of the current business practices.
The Past is Prologue
Whether for security or other key business functions, applications and systems help to get the right information to the right people at the right time. These functions require devices and systems that collect and communicate data, including RFID systems, sensors, actuators, wireless sensor networks, cameras and others. However, communication between different devices and systems is often difficult to achieve as many of these devices and systems communicate in different protocols, including protocols that are non-IP and, thus, require conversion and data transformation. These devices and systems exist as separate silos of information, unable to deliver information effectively to support business functions.
When tasked with implementing a new application, a systems integrator is faced with two choices: leave the silos in place, or spend a lot of time and money knocking the silos down. Leaving the silos in place no longer meets business needs. As more edge-of-network devices and systems ("edge assets") are deployed, and as the demands of businesses and also government agencies become more complex, the old approaches are inhibiting the deployment of intelligent systems.
One obstacle has been the limitations of some middleware technologies tied to a specific type of edge asset, such as RFID middleware, or sensor network management software. While this middleware can insert the data from the specific edge asset into the IT network, the product can seldom accommodate data from other edge assets, let alone enable correlation between the data.
For businesses that wish to bypass the device-specific middleware dilemma and create hand-coded solutions on a case-by-case basis, other problems can develop. In order to integrate and correlate data from diverse edge assets, an integrator must grapple with the fact that these disparate devices likely rely on different protocols or data formats to communicate. Wrestling with these hurdles increases deployment timelines and costs, while decreasing return on investment for new and legacy edge asset purchases. Although the notion of convergence is attractive, its implementation can create a dilemma for integrators.