The Need for RFID Middleware
RFID middleware is gradually becoming a cornerstone for non-trivial RFID deployments. This is particularly true in complex heterogeneous environments comprising multiple readers, applications instances, legacy ICT systems, as well as sophisticated business processes and semantics.
In factories, warehouses, distribution centres and other facilities many distributed readers and antennas capture RFID data, which must communicate with a variety of applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, warehouse management systems (WMS), corporate databases, process management systems.
RFID middleware, in these facilities, is indispensable for three main reasons:
- The need to filter out duplicate reads and excess information in order to avoid pushing information that is not needed to the upstream applications, while at the same time optimizing network resources.
- The need to interface and deal with readers, tags and devices in a heterogeneous multi-vendor environment, without resorting to custom integration logic.
- The need to pass and route RFID data streams to different applications and databases.
The importance of RFID middleware has given rise to several middleware products. The market is dominated by: (a) specialized companies which offer products that integrate with RFID readers filter and aggregate data and even incorporate business rules, and (b) giant vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Sun Microsystems, which have extended their application development and middleware-technology stacks to handle RFID.
Open Source RFID Middleware
Along with vendor products, there have also been several efforts for providing Open Source RFID Middleware products. Several Open Source Software (OSS) initiatives have up-to-date attempted to provide RFID middleware implementations, the most prominent ones being:
In addition there have also been implementations focusing on tools, such as:
- Rifidi, which lets you develop an RFID system entirely from software
- Sun's JCAPS (Java Composite Application Platform) for RFID.
It's important to note that the above initiatives are the most representative middleware projects among more than fifty OSS RFID entries registered in sourceforge.net and other OSS repositories.
While the above projects have hardly achieved to gain momentum and achieve high penetration in realistic RFID projects, we still believe there is room and opportunity for Open Source RFID Middleware products.
Indeed, Open Source RFID Middleware offers some distinct advantages, which can be summarized as follows:
- Open Source Middleware can lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for RFID Deployments. The cost of an RFID middleware platform is a contributing factor to the TCO of an RFID solution/deployment. The adoption of a royalty-free OSS solution could help enterprises reduce the TCO that is associated with RFID deployments. This is particularly important for Small-Medium-Enterprise (SMEs), which cannot afford the high TCO. Note that the need to lower RFID TCO is nowadays more pressing than ever, given that many SMEs are currently hit by the global recession. Hence, OSS RFID Middleware can boost their ability to innovate based on RFID technology.
- Open Source community development could accelerate the evolution and adoption of RFID solutions from multiple companies. Specifically, it could serve as a basis for enterprises to leverage RFID in their product offerings.
Based on an appropriate licensing scheme, an open source approach could enable both end users and integrators to effectively introduce RFID enabled solutions into their business processes.
- OSS products are open to public scrutiny. Hence, OSS RFID middleware could alleviate privacy concerns associated with the processing of RFID data. We therefore argue that an open source middleware approach can be the way to "privacy-friendliness."
AspireRfid Middleware Project
Motivated by the above benefits, the OW2 Consortium and the research project ASPIRE have launched the AspireRfid Open Source Project. OW2 is an independent industry community dedicated to developing open source code middleware and to fostering a vibrant community and business ecosystem.
ASPIRE is a collaborative European research project funded by the European Commission in the scope of its Seventh Framework (FP7) Programme. ASPIRE involves 10 organizations from across Europe including: Aalborg University, CTIF (Denmark), INRIA (France), Universite Joseph Fourier (France), Athens Information Technology (Greece), Melexis technologies S.A (Switzerland), Open Source Innovation Ltd (UK), UEAPME (Belgium), SENSAP S.A, (Greece), Pole Traceability Valence (France), Instituto Telecomunicaoes (Portugal).