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Reva Taps Into RFID Data

Just a few months after stepping out of stealth, Reva Systems Corp. has unveiled its first product: a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) appliance which aims to ease the strain on users' back-end storage and servers. (See Reva Unveils TAP .)

Keeping track of the masses of data generated by RFID readers poses a potential nightmare for data center managers, something Reva hopes to cash in on. (See IDC: RFID Success Depends on Networks and RFID Feeding Frenzy.)

The one-rack-unit Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) sits on a local area network (LAN) and draws information from RFID readers. The appliance then uses the Auto-ID Infrastructure (AII) interface to make the data available to SAP and SQL applications sitting on back-end servers.

Although RFID is still an emerging technology, Reva has managed to nab some early adopters. A major professional services firm, which asked not to be named, is using the devices to keep track of who visits one of its key R&D facilities. “Customers are allocated a badge with an RFID tag,” explains a senior exec at the firm, noting that the TAPs "provide that first tier of data filtering and aggregation.”

The exec tells NDCF that this approach is less hassle than running specialist software on back-end servers to handle all the data. “I don’t want to have to worry about middleware going down or writing custom code,” he says.

A number of software vendors, including IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS), are fleshing out their RFID middleware portfolios. IBM has already adapted its WebSphere middleware to monitor RFID activity, and BEA recently nabbed startup ConnecTerra in an attempt to boost its own product line (See Middleware Players Eye RFID and BEA Bags ConnecTerra.) But the professional services exec believes that Reva is ahead of the curve. “We’re looking at the space,” he says, “but we haven’t seen anyone as far along as Reva.”

The TAP device prevents storage systems from being overloaded with data, according to the user. “It can do all the filtering and just pass on the information that’s important from a business perspective.”

There has been plenty of hype around RFID over the last few years, although retailers and manufacturers are only now starting to come to grips with the technology. Retail giant Wal-Mart, for example, gave its top 100 suppliers a January 1st deadline for RFID compliance. Since then, Virgin Atlantic Airways has launched its own pilot with Oracle to RFID tag aircraft parts at London's Heathrow airport. (See Virgin Atlantic Pilots RFID Scheme.)

But the technology could prove a massive money-spinner for any organization that needs to track large amounts of stock, according to the Reva customer. “Wal-Mart is a volume play,” he says. “Any penny they can shave off a material handling charge comes off the bottom line.”

The exec, however, refused to say how much he had spent on the Reva devices, or whether they will be built into his firm’s own services offerings.

Chelmsford, Mass.-based Reva Systems emerged from stealth just over four months ago, and Ashley Stephenson, the startup’s CEO and co-founder tells NDCF that he is already planning to extend the number of interfaces offered on the TAP (See Startup Raves on RFID )

RFID works by using tags, on either a specific product or package, that emit radio signals. "Reader" devices pick up these signals, enabling the products to be tracked. Previously, businesses relied on barcode readers to keep track of their wares; RFID technology does not require direct contact or what is known as "line-of-sight" scanning.

Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), which represents the business interests of the IT industry, recently published research suggesting that more than 50 percent of North American companies have either completed RFID implementations or plan to do so within the next 12 months.

Pricing for the TAPs, which are already available, starts at $9,995.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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