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There’s a lot of talk these days about service-oriented architectures and how they can help IT departments turn their existing and new applications and data sources into an agile IT infrastructure that can help organizations meet changing business needs.

There’s also a lot of talk about RFID and how it’s going to change manufacturing, supply chain management and a range of other areas. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense had told its suppliers that it wants to start tracking the goods it receives via RFID.

Think of it this way: RFID will change the way organizations do business and SOA changes the way IT departments do business.

But there’s not a whole lot of talk about RFID and SOA—which is not so strange from the SOA side (since there’s simply so many way that SOA can be leveraged) but it’s actually a bit strange when you look under the covers of RFID.

I believe that this will change. Over the next few years, SOA will become intricately linked with RFID and will be a key part of how organizations leverage the inherent power of RFID-based solutions. Of course, while RFID can be implemented without SOA, using SOA to interface RFID technologies to existing (or even new) applications and IT systems turbo charges it and enables more rapid and agile solutions that can be adjusted more quickly to meet changing business needs.

Think of it this way—the Department of Defense has an awful lot of enterprise computer systems and applications that it can’t simply replace because it wants to implement RFID. Instead, it needs way for RFID information (and perhaps other, sensor-based information) feed into those back end systems in a rational way. They can either write gobs of application-specific middleware, or use SOA to create a more modular and flexible set of interfaces for its on-going conversion to RFID.

While it’s a bit like bar coding, RFID used tiny transmitters (RFID tags) that contain identification information (any may contact additional information as well) that can be automatically read by RFID readers, as long as they’re within range or the right proximity-unlike bar codes, a large number of RFID tags can be read simultaneously (such as a pallet of RFID enabled goods). In addition, many organizations are extending RFID solutions to include additional sensor-based information, such as data from temperature sensors, or location sensors.

RFID and sensor-based technologies will alter manufacturing and supply chain strategies, as well as potentially revolutionize how organizations manage a range of business processes. Going beyond traditional bar coding and bar coding technologies to take advantage of the possibilities of RFID opens up a company to a variety of challenges—challenges that are not well suited to traditional, top-down programming and IT architecture.


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