The IoT Challenge

As the Internet of Things takes shape, RFID companies need to offer complete solutions that can quickly and easily adapt to customers' needs and expectations.
By John Shoemaker

Customers also do not care about RF frequencies and technology types. Why should they have to be educated about Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF), ultrahigh-frequency (UHF), Wi-Fi, ZigBee, ultra-wideband (UWB), microwave and other technologies? Then there are real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, the Global Positioning System (GPS), differential GPS (DGPS), indoor positioning systems (IPS) and Near Field Communication (NFC). More often, in the future, we will see multi-frequency and -technology products combined into a single device that automatically adapts to the required frequency for specific applications, and can be active, passive or both.

At present, active UHF RFID tags are gaining traction in the following high-profile applications for which suppliers have provided solutions: construction laydown yards and storage areas (materials management); container tracking at seaports (locationing and reefer monitoring); discrete manufacturing and finished goods (quality and inventory control); power distribution and greenhouse gas reduction (smart meters); apparel and retail (inventory management and procurement); oil, gas, mining and energy (security and personnel safety); transportation and cargo (distribution coordination); and pharmaceuticals (pedigree and authentication).

In each of these applications, the systems integrator—either by itself or, more typically, teamed with technology providers—supplies a solution in which software, hardware and services are integrated as a whole product that addresses a customer's specific need or solves a particular problem.

For solution providers and their partners, the challenge is to manage a development team for the requisite wireless and wired hardware, as well as a so-called "agile" software-development organization that can adapt easily and quickly to customer changes. This is especially important as requirements evolve, since response time is critical as new competitor offerings become available.

No IoT application solution, in the near term, will be satisfactory right out of the box. All companies will expect to have the system customized to their specific needs, organizational requirements and language. The software-development team, working together with necessary wireless infrastructures, will need to be able to react in a matter of hours or days instead of weeks or months. Customers want to see the "solution in action," accessible from the cloud, before making final decisions.

Software acts as the glue that ties the solution together. In an IoT wireless world of data capture, the information must be collected and managed via a rules-based engine that presents it in ways that bring clarity and actionable intelligence to what is happening.

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