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Conversations about RFID are commonplace today. We’re constantly hearing about Wal-Mart and other retailer mandates, activities coming out of the Department of Defense, standards news from the likes of ISO and EPCglobal, and big technology players bringing new software and hardware solutions to the fore, designed to streamline supply chain operations and inventory management.



Perhaps lesser known to most, we’re also seeing another trend emerge — the convergence of active RFID and Wi-Fi. Unlike the systems mentioned above, active RFID involves tags with an energy source (batteries) that emit a signal to readers some distance away. The readers process the signal and determine the location of the tag, based on its presence in a particular zone or using triangulation techniques. To simplify, this kind of system provides an almost precise location of tags by coordinates within a particular physical space, very similar to GPS, but designed for use inside or in neighboring open spaces, such as parking lots or courtyards.

The Convergence

Active RFID technology has been available for years, using proprietary frequencies requiring their own equipment and infrastructure. But the convergence we’re seeing today, based on technology developed by AeroScout, Ekahau, Cisco and others, is based on active RFID systems that uses the same frequency as Wi-Fi networks, allowing end users to capitalize on existing infrastructure for wireless data networks. Not only does this reduce the overall implementation cost, but it also increases the advantages of location services for goods and people, and ultimately streamlines processes in a range of industries.

Going down a layer, companies can use RFID and Wi-Fi technology to learn more about their assets than simple physical location, such as entry and exit, shortage or overflow, out of flow, friend or foe, status and more. That data can then be processed and sent to business applications such as SAP, Oracle, Tibco, or i2 Technologies, or to generate notifications and alerts by e-mail, text message, PDA, etc. These “event processing platforms” have a high volume processing capacity for “location reports” that can reach up to several dozen million, with thousands of tags generating information every minute, every second, or even more frequently.

Market Opportunities

So, how can companies take advantage of RFID / Wi-Fi systems? Consider the following examples.

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