AT&T Begins Offering RFID Services - InformationWeek

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AT&T Begins Offering RFID Services

The group aims to provide services for RFID networks across diverse hardware platforms, operating systems, applications, and databases.

AT&T Inc. has begun to offer five radio frequency identification (RFID) services it will design with several top industry companies as businesses look for assistance building-out and securing sensor networks.

Companies working to deliver these services to a "handful" of customers now underway include AT&T's supply chain subsidiary Sterling Commerce, as well as Intel Corp., BEA Systems Inc., and Symbol Technologies Inc. The group aims to provide services for RFID networks across diverse hardware platforms, operating systems, applications and databases.

Services will initially focus on the next generation of passive RFID technology known as Gen 2, said Ebrahim Keshavarz, AT&T's vice president of new services development. The technology is based on the electronic product code (EPC) ultra high frequency (UHF) protocol. The RFID tags using this protocol don't have an internal power supply and rely on the reader to detect and grab the radio frequency (RF) signal.

AT&T will offer integrated manage services linked to a global network. "We are not getting into the market of manufacturing tags or readers," Keshavarz said. "RFID is about communicating from the tag to the reader and to a central network."

Keshavarz believes the company will lead in these services because it has the resources through AT&T and Cingular to offer network and data communication through Wi-Fi, wired, wireless, cellular, and satellite.

AT&T doesn't have an internal passive RFID deployment, but it has implemented a location based service with cellular data linked to global positing systems (GPS) on about 30,000 vans, added Paul DiGiacomo, AT&T's director of sensor network services

Two RFID services are available now for customers. The professional services, which provide assessment for planning and deployment, and Sterling Commerce's supply chain services focused on warehouse management.

The remaining three services – managing readers, securing transactions, and hosting database – are in trials for between 90 and 120 days. The feedback will determine pricing and availability.

Intel Solution Services and AT&T Laboratories are co-developing reference architectures that will create basic building blocks for RFID devices to improve the management and administration of RFID readers and sensors for networks.

AT&T, which already manages routers and LANs for customers, will offer services to host the databases that store information collected from readers. AT&T will house the databases, which comply with standards setup by the non-profit industry group EPCglobal Inc., at one of its 30 data centers.

BEA will supply the middleware for the hosted databases, Keshavarz declined to name. Through edge-server software, BEA provides the ability to manage multiple readers and firmware upgrades remotely.

While RFID technology appears promising, these services are expected to make deployments more predictable and manageable. "Customers are looking for standard services, and they are waiting for these before they roll out the technology over multiple locations," Keshavarz said. "We've realized the way you deploy managed assets has a huge impact on network performance."

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