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AT&T Developer Program

Understanding Real-Time Asset Tracking Solutions Whitepaper

Document Number Revision No. Revision Date

30001 0.1 11/12/08

© 2007 AT&T Knowledge Ventures

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Revision History

© 2008 AT&T Intellectual Property All rights reserved. AT&T and AT&T logos are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property.
All marks, trademarks, and product names used in this document are the property of their respective owners.

Date

Revision No.

Description

11/12/08

0.1

Final document version

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 Audience ....................................................................................................................................... 1 Contact Information ...................................................................................................................... 1 Terms and Acronyms.................................................................................................................... 1

2. RFID Overview ....................................................................................................................................... 4 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 History........................................................................................................................................... 4 Industry Trends and Drivers ......................................................................................................... 5 Brief Explanation of RFID Technology ......................................................................................... 6 The Right Time for RFID Investment............................................................................................ 8 The Wireless Carrier’s Position in RFID ....................................................................................... 9

3. RFID Technology, Architecture and Components................................................................................ 11 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 General Architecture and Components ...................................................................................... 11 Passive Architecture and Components ...................................................................................... 12 Active and Semi-Passive Architecture and Components ........................................................... 13 LBS Architecture and Components ............................................................................................ 14 Compound Solutions (RFID / WAN) ........................................................................................... 15

4. RFID Applications ................................................................................................................................. 17 4.1 4.2 Enterprise Solutions.................................................................................................................... 17 Asset Tracking ............................................................................................................................ 19 4.2.1 4.2.2 4.2.3 4.3 4.3.1 4.3.2 4.3.3 4.3.4 4.3.5 4.4 4.5 Visibility Categories ....................................................................................................... 20 Loss Prevention ............................................................................................................. 21 Regulatory Compliance ................................................................................................. 21 Manufacturing ................................................................................................................ 22 Work-in-Process ............................................................................................................ 22 Real-Time Location and Control of Inventory ................................................................ 23 Reusable Bin Tracking................................................................................................... 23 Mobile Inventory and Field Sales................................................................................... 24

Supply Chain and Inventory Tracking......................................................................................... 22

Workforce Management ............................................................................................................. 24 Security and Safety..................................................................................................................... 24 4.5.1 4.5.2 4.5.3 Patient Care ................................................................................................................... 24 Labs and Specimens ..................................................................................................... 26 Law Enforcement........................................................................................................... 26

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Table of Contents

5. Technology Options for RTLS .............................................................................................................. 27 5.1 5.2 Solution Overview....................................................................................................................... 27 Assisted-GPS Tracking Solution ................................................................................................ 27 5.2.1 5.2.2 5.3 5.3.1 5.3.2 5.4 5.4.1 5.4.2 Solution Overview .......................................................................................................... 27 Physical Solution Components ...................................................................................... 29 Solution Overview .......................................................................................................... 30 Physical Solution Components ...................................................................................... 31 Solution Overview .......................................................................................................... 32 Physical Solution Components ...................................................................................... 34

Wi-Fi Based Location Tracking Solution..................................................................................... 30

Out-of-Band Real-Time Location Solution.................................................................................. 32

6. Design and Integration Considerations ................................................................................................ 36 6.1 6.2 Accuracy and Resolution ............................................................................................................ 36 Privacy Concerns........................................................................................................................ 37 6.2.1 6.2.2 6.3 6.3.1 6.3.2 6.3.3 6.4 6.4.1 6.4.2 6.4.3 6.4.4 6.4.5 6.5 Privacy ........................................................................................................................... 37 Security .......................................................................................................................... 40 Various Forms of RFID Applications.............................................................................. 40 Phases of Integration..................................................................................................... 41 EPCIS – A Global Communication Platform for Product Information............................ 44 Characteristic of RFID Software Vendors...................................................................... 46 Industry Focused Software Application with RFID Capability ....................................... 46 RFID Software Application with Specialized Features .................................................. 47 RFID Middleware Suites ................................................................................................ 49 Communication with RFID Hardware ............................................................................ 54

Integration ................................................................................................................................... 40

RFID and RTLS Application Development Tools ....................................................................... 46

Future Technology Trends.......................................................................................................... 55

7. Case Study ........................................................................................................................................... 59 7.1 7.2 Large Financial Institution Tracks Assets in Transit ................................................................... 59 DHS and Major Retailers Secure Merchandise in Supply Chain ............................................... 60

8. References ........................................................................................................................................... 63

List of Figures
Figure 1: A-GPS Location Tracking Solution .............................................................................................. 28

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Figure 2: Wi-Fi based Location Tracking System ...................................................................................... 31 Figure 3: OoB Tracking Solution ................................................................................................................. 34 Figure 4: Integration Roadmap of RFID and RTLS .................................................................................... 42 Figure 5: Integration Architecture Stack...................................................................................................... 44 Figure 6: EPCIS Architecture ...................................................................................................................... 45 Figure 7: MobileView 4.0 Architecture ........................................................................................................ 48 Figure 8: IBM RFID Device Infrastructure................................................................................................... 51 Figure 9: Microsoft BizTalk RFID Architecture............................................................................................ 53 Figure 10: Case Study Solution Architecture .............................................................................................. 62

List of Tables
Table 1: Terms and Acronyms ...................................................................................................................... 1

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1. Introduction
The abbreviation RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) has come to signify system solutions for tracking and tracing objects both globally and locally using RFID tags. RFID is one of the several technologies that are collectively known as Auto-ID procedures; procedures for identifying objects automatically. In essence, RFID has automated the process of data collection. Real-time location systems (RTLS) include some RFID solutions, but also include other technologies, which can provide this level of visibility. This whitepaper attempts to de-mystify the technologies, and present components and potential applications in the business world in a manner that we hope will be understood by all who read it. AT&T is interested in presenting information on these technologies and solutions to their customers and partners as an educational paper. While AT&T does not currently have a formal offering in this area, we look forward to working with you to deploy similar solutions in the future.

1.1 Audience
This whitepaper is aimed at anyone who would like to understand the technology options for real-time asset tracking and its various aspects.

1.2 Contact Information
Please e-mail any comment or question regarding this document to developer.program@awsmail.att.com. Please reference the title of this document in your e-mail.

1.3 Terms and Acronyms
The following table defines terms and acronyms used in this document.
Table 1: Terms and Acronyms Term or Acronym A-GPS AIDC Assisted -GPS Automated Identification and Data Collection Definition

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Term or Acronym AoA API CPG DOT EDGE EPC EPCIS FCC FDA GPIO GPRS GPS HIPPA IFF LBS LED NFC OoB OSHA POS PSAP RFID ROI RTLS RTT SDS-TWR TREAD ToF TDOA ToA UHF WAN WIP WLAN Angle of Arrival

Definition Application Programming Interface Consumer Packaged Goods Department of Transportation Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution Electronic Product Code Electronic Product Code Information Services Federal Communications Commission Food and Drug Administration General Purpose Input / Output General Packet Radio Service Global Positioning System Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act If Friend or Foe Application Location-Based Services Light Emitting Diode Near-Field Communication Out-of-Band Occupational Safety and Health Administration Point of Sale Public Safety Answering Point Radio Frequency IDentification Return On Investment Real-Time Location Systems Round-Trip Time Symmetrical Double-Sided Two-Way Ranging Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Time of Flight Time Difference of Arrival Time of Arrival Ultra High Frequency Wide-Area Network Work-in-Process Wireless Local-Area Network

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Term or Acronym XML

Definition Extensible Markup Language

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2. RFID Overview
2.1 History
Radio Frequency IDentifications (RFID) original use can be traced back to World War II, when it was used in Friend or Foe (IFF) systems by the allies to determine which planes to “shoot down” as they crossed the English Channel. Advancements in RFID-related technologies continued through the 1950s and 60s as organizations began commercializing tracking and anti-theft systems that used radio waves to locate and identify the specific status of a tagged item as it passed through a choke-point. The early passive RFID technologies were developed by the US government in the 1960s to track animal medication dispensing. Their problem was that cows were being given hormones and medicines; however, it was difficult to ensure that the correct cow was given the correct dosage, and was not given two doses accidentally. To solve this issue a tag/reader combination was developed, whereby each cow was given a UHF passive tag and the tag was scanned before a cow was injected with the medication. The tag (attached to the cow) drew energy from the reader and simply reflected a modulated signal using a technique known as backscatter. This solution is considered to be the “grandfather” of the modern-day EPC-based RFID solution. In the 1970s, the US government began working on a “new” type of RFID technology that would allow the Energy Department to track nuclear materials effectively. This new solution involved the use of active RFID transponders that were placed in moving vehicles and could be detected as these vehicles entered and exited the country’s main roads and highways. This system was later commercialized into a technology that many of us are familiar with in the form of a toll highway system. In the 1990s, a new type of technology emerged which allowed organizations to go beyond the traditional choke point tracking model to a real-time visibility model. This new technology, entitled ”Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)”, used a variety of technologies to locate the precise location of a tagged asset.

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In the early 2000s RTLS solutions began to take a different form with the introduction of federal mandates by the FCC for Enhanced 911 services (also referred to as E911). The wireless E911 legislation was enacted to increase the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911 services by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on any wireless-based 911 calls. The wireless E911 program was divided into two phases, which were deployed over a period of four (4) years. Phase I required carriers to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Phase II required wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 100 meters in most cases, of an incoming 911 call. The deployment of E911 required the development of new technologies and enhancements to local 911 PSAPs, as well as coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and local wireline carriers. The deployment and enablement of these solutions revolutionized the RTLS marketplace enabling triangulation and Enhanced GPS solutions to become a reality. Today, most RTLS solutions operate in one of three frequency ranges, namely 300-433.92 MHz, 2.45 GHz, and 1.9GHz (Cellular). The 2.4 GHz RTLS solutions are primarily based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee technologies while those of the 1.9GHz band are primarily cellular-based. The convergence of all of these technologies has given organizations the ability to track assets in accurate and cost-effective ways not previously possible. It is important to distinguish between RFID (transponder) technology and telemetry technology. These two technologies operate differently and thus occupy different application niches. There are some applications that use a hybrid of both transponder and telemetry techniques. Nevertheless, it is important to remember the essential differences between them as one chooses a technology for a new application. From an application perspective, one distinction lies in how the asset being tracked will reveal its current condition. If, for example, the asset acknowledges an explicit, close up read, then RFID is appropriate. If the asset remains ignored until it signals for help, then telemetry is appropriate.

2.2

Industry Trends and Drivers
RFID applications have been an important component of Asset Tracking solutions in the past decade. Advances in the technology and improvements in
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the accuracy of the components have fueled interest in this technology. Deployment of the E911 technologies by the wireless carriers, the widespread use of GPS enabled cellular devices and the development of the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard in conjunction with software solutions for managing the enormous amounts of data that these solutions collect, have all enabled enterprises to deploy cost effective RFID based asset tracking solutions. Although EPC based solutions have enjoyed much success in the last 5 years, many solutions being deployed today are passive based solutions within the 4 walls and are used to regulate and monitor choke points within the supply chain. Another class of solutions that has seen a lot of interest from business in many industries is RTLS. These solutions are used to track high value and business critical assets. Until recently the high cost of these solutions has resulted in only a small number of large scale deployments. Very recently the cost of these RTLS technologies has dropped, and significant interest has risen into the applicability of these solutions for various niche markets. Some of the recent adopters of these solutions include Prisoner Tracking (inmates on probation) and Patient Tracking (inside hospitals and at home care) to name a few. Due to the continued decline in the price of these components and the pervasiveness of the internet these applications are now more cost effective. RTLS solutions have been used in many industries; however, the main applications of RTLS solutions include military, healthcare, entertainment, manufacturing, port security, retail, transportation/logistics, postal/courier, and government industries. A more detailed overview of each of these industries and their applications are included within this whitepaper.

2.3

Brief Explanation of RFID Technology
RFID tags, also commonly known as transponders are comprised of an electronic circuit and an integrated antenna. Readers, with either internal or external antennas, interpret the radio waves into digital information. A particular frequency of radio waves transfers the data between the RFID tag and the readers (both are set to the same frequency). A reader sends out a signal and all tags within the range of that reader receive the signal via their antenna. The power for passive tags is supplied by the reader. There are three major types of RFID tags:

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1) Passive Tag – primarily used to track assets at the pallet, case, and item levels; general read range is less than 3 meters; cost ranges from $0.05$10.00 per tag. 2) Semi-passive Tag – uses batteries to power the microchip circuitry, not to power communications; typically used to track high-value goods; cost is more than $2.00 per tag. 3) Active Tag – battery-powered to communicate with readers; usually used to track assets over long ranges – 100ft +; cost is more than $30 per tag. Another tag distinction is the ability to update information that is stored on the tags: 1) Read-Only Tags – those tags that carry information which can never be changed. 2) Write Once / Read Many Tags (WORM) – those tags that are programmed at a single point in the industrial process, like at final packaging, and then the same data is read many times as the product moves through the supply chain. 3) Read-Write Tags – those tags that allow data that is stored in the tag to be changed dynamically. Lock-codes can be used to secure the data on the tag. Below is a table with information about the different categories of frequency used in RFID systems and some corresponding characteristics. RFID Frequency Characteristics Read Range Best Use Applications

LF (Low Frequency) 125-134 kHz HF (High Frequency) 13.56 MHz

Great penetration Slow data rate More expensive tag antennas Limited anti-collision Good penetration Most applicable World-Wide Simultaneous read capability = 50 tags Most progress on establishing standards

< 18 in.

< 10 ft.

WIP, Rental Item, Auto Immobilizers, Animal Tracking, Access Control, POS Application WIP, Rental Item, pharma, Auto Immobilizers, Security / Access Control, Smart Shelves, Airline Baggage tags

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UHF (Ultra High Frequency) (400 – 1000MHz)
Note: most operate between 860-930MHz

Fast data rate Simultaneous read capability = 50 tags Some standards exist

< 30 ft.

Microwave 2.45 GHz

Very fast data rate

10+ ft.

Yard Management, Supply Chain Management, Baggage Tracking, Asset Management, Toll Collection, Sports Timing Supply Chain Management, Asset Management, Toll Collection

2.4

The Right Time for RFID Investment
As the technology evolved the emergence of several additional applications were discovered, which lead to an increased market acceptance. Today, several of the crucial milestones have been reached with RFID technology; allowing organizations to reap the benefits of an RFID solution. Completion of the following three (3) steps has positioned RFID solutions as a front runner. Technology Maturity Market Acceptance Privacy Governance RFID was traditionally utilized purely for identification solutions; allowing a closer tracking of goods, assets, and individuals as they passed through specific areas. The evolution of the technology has provided the opportunity to track an item and identify its location. Throughout the 40 years of RFID development, technological advancements such as transistors, silicon wafers, and efficient battery cells have created a robust architecture that allows the technology to operate in the harshest of conditions. Advancements in material engineering have also opened the potential usages allowing the use of RFID tags in harsh or corrosive environments. RFID has become a tested solution over the past several decades with advancements that have led to extremely accurate and reliable solutions. The advancement in technology maturity is driven not only by the solution itself, but also by the advancement of the mature processes and procedures used to design and implement these solutions. The second crucial step for RFID is the market acceptance. The market today has embraced several RFID solutions either in the passive RFID space or active
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tags (such as RTLS). This market acceptance is currently driving the cost of RFID tags to constantly lower prices. In recent years, the price of infrastructure and RFID tags has been reduced to a fraction of the initial costs. Recent contracts for very large quantities (more than 1 million) of simple passive tags has finally dropped to the much anticipated 5 cents cost. Finally, with RFID, there has been a lingering question of privacy governance that remained unresolved until recently. Fueled by court case precedence and legislation, organizations have developed specific rules and regulations around tracking. This provides a baseline for acceptance and allows organizations to provide tracking services, either internally or externally, while properly disclosing the usage of the system to the end consumer.

2.5

The Wireless Carrier’s Position in RFID
Because of their core business of providing connectivity in mobile environments or remote locations, wireless carriers have also provided early technical solutions for tracking applications. Due to their backbone infrastructure, wireless carriers are evolving not only to connect individuals via voice communications, but also to enhance the way we interact with data. Through the ubiquity of the cellular network, several wireless applications are enabled today, such as vehicle tracking, remote telecommuting, and patient monitoring. These applications share the need for a remote network that extends far beyond a home, office, or enterprise. Leveraging this centralized model, wireless carriers have found themselves in a position not only to offer the infrastructure for the information to transverse, but also having the ability to centralize the support of these applications to reduce the overall total cost of ownership for organizations and businesses. As the applications develop for RFID RTLS, wireless carriers enhance their service offerings to enable not only larger, faster data communications, but also a wide array of hosted business applications. Some of the common RFID applications that are well suited for wireless carriers include asset tracking in transit, inventory tracking within vehicles, mobile merchandising, employee and patient tracking, and others. These applications are reviewed in a subsequent section. Another area of focus for Wireless Carriers is the area of Near-Field Communications (NFC). There are many opportunities for new consumer applications for Wireless Carriers in this area. The integration of an NFC chip
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into phone handsets offers a new dimension of usability for customers. Applications such as mobile payment, personal banking, access control, transit and ticketing, and interpersonal exchange are gaining momentum. NFC and these applications are out of scope of this paper.

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3. RFID Technology, Architecture and Components
A wide range of RFID technologies can be utilized to enable tracking of goods, personnel and assets. Although these platforms share a single generic architecture, there are multiple sets of components and nomenclatures used when designing and architecting an RFID-based solution. This section outlines the architecture components of an RFID-based solution, typical location and functional usage, and potential data integration points.

3.1

General Architecture and Components
RFID solutions consist of a base set of functional components: tags, sensor network, and intelligence systems. Each of these three components provides specific functionality which integrates to form a combined RFID-enabled system. The most recognizable component with the RFID system is the tag. Although the majority of individuals use this to determine whether an RFID system is being employed, it is often one of the most difficult pieces of equipment to identify physically. Passive RFID tags provide the simplistic function of uniquely identifying an object whether it is a tool, vehicle, person, or object by providing the ‘license plate’ feature. This means that each RFID tag has a unique code which is read by the readers and sent to a backend application where it is associated with the asset or person. The backend business logic then determines the next steps to perform. Due to the versatility of this unit, RFID tags come in various shapes, sizes, and form-factors to ensure proper mounting on and security with the object it is monitoring. In addition to the basic operation of identifying objects, semi-passive and active tags are becoming significantly more intelligent. Several versions contain the capability to include data from additional sensors and monitoring devices such as thermometers, altimeters, motion sensors, and tamper sensors, to the readout. Information read from the tag is sent via the RFID system’s reader network. This network provides the translation between the wireless transmissions of the RFID tags and the requests made via backend systems and servers. The architecture of the reader network varies significantly depending on the RFID system being used. The distance between the tag and the reader depends on the type of tag and amount of energy used. This can vary from a few centimeters for access control or payment applications, to 100s of meters or even up to a mile for some active tags if read in unobstructed areas. The readers are typically connected to

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their middleware and backend application servers via Ethernet. In some instances where there is no access, cellular modems can be used for backhaul. The network used in an RFID solution can be an open public network, such as the internet, or a more complex proprietary network, some of which have features to improve accuracy. The final component within an RFID system is the intelligence systems. Intelligent systems answer the question of “what does this information mean to me?” An example of this is GPS location data. If you look deeply into GPS and location information, generally, you are given a very specific coordinate identifying a latitude and longitude on a map. By informing an individual that you will be located at these numeric coordinates, you provide that person with very precise information. However, most people cannot directly understand a location given in map coordinates. In order to interpret this in human terms we need to place the location on a map, or describe a street address, or some other conventional form. These are the functions that the intelligence systems perform, mapping complex data from potentially several data sources, into a usable format such as mapping interfaces, proactive alerts, inventory updates, and much more. The intelligence systems are limitless in terms of the capability; however, they are bound by the information that is provided to them. Customers today integrate location systems with maintenance programs, supply chain applications, and field force automation solutions to properly tie together and maximize the full potential of the solution.

3.2

Passive Architecture and Components
The simplest form is the passive RFID tag. Passive RFID obtains its name from the method in which the RFID tags communicate with the RFID readers. These passive RFID tags do not contain a battery or radio in which to communicate, limiting them to the energy available from the reader’s RF signal. RFID readers make up the sensory network, work to translate and transfer the information from the RFID tags to the backend intelligence systems. The passive RFID architecture consists of three major components: Passive RFID tags, RFID readers, and backend systems. The passive RFID systems only allow communication between the tag and the reader while physically within the proximity of the reader. These read zones are often referred to as “choke points” and are focused to provide the user a per-instance view of the asset. In

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some cases, this may be beneficial, because absolute information may not be required, i.e., the device was last seen going into this room, but has not come out. RFID tags contain simple information; normally in the form of a unique identifier or license plate that is either standard-driven by organizations such as GS1 or EPC Global, or proprietary-based such as a unique sequential number. These unique numbers are referenced within backend databases to identify the tags into meaningful objects. These backend systems traditionally reside on an organization’s premise and are used to further provide informational streams to any remaining systems that could utilize the information. Complimentary to this architecture is the need for stringent process design. The technology has to be implemented within a particular fashion in which assets or users must pass through a reader infrastructure to prevent data inaccuracies. Processes should be observed and leveraged in order to properly position the RFID readers within the correct work areas.

3.3

Active and Semi-Passive Architecture and Components
Active RFID differs significantly from the passive RFID style system. Active RFID contains a battery within the RFID tag, as well as a radio for transmission. This allows the active systems to be significantly more robust by leveraging intelligence at the RFID tag level. These tags can have embedded sensors built into the tag or can connect to external sensors to deliver additional information upon each read of the tag. Active tags also have a much greater read range and depending on their battery and antenna size, can reach up to a mile in distance. A semi-passive RFID tag is similar to an active tag in that it has a battery, but it only uses the battery for powering the onboard circuitry, not for communication. It can also power an embedded sensor. Typically the reader initiates the read of the active RFID tag, however the tag can be prompted to send data if it is prompted to do so by an internal or external sensor. Active tags typically have the capability to ‘beacon’ or send their data based upon a defined interval, and if they are in read range of a reader the reader will receive the data. In order to leverage the network to its full potential, the network receives and transmits in an omni-directional pattern, and can often overlap to provide additional areas of redundancy. When seeking location information in a yard or campus, the more readers deployed the better resolution you will receive from the location data. However some applications will fail if the
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reader range overlaps with another reader, and require distinct read areas such as detecting product movement on a manufacturing line. Depending on the type of Active RFID network chosen, the system can either leverage a local network for simple process flows, or more robust network solutions such as Wi-Fi, Out-of-band, and cellular networks for complex locationbased services applications. Active RFID tags such as location-based tags can amalgamate radio information through either the tag or radio network and transmit this information to the backend systems for further processing. These backend systems refine and evaluate the data to determine the reliable and accurate form of device resolution. Due to the significant size of the wireless network, the term “backend” systems may not be the most appropriate term. In several cases, backend servers can be located either on an organization’s network, or potentially within an ASP-type model. Within the ASP model, an ASP or potential Telecom provider will host the necessary servers and services to run the application. Information can be displayed in either a web format, or often directly exported into a specific data stream to an organization’s backend.

3.4

LBS Architecture and Components
Location-Based Services (LBS) can span a number of technologies with the purpose of obtaining a fixed position of an object. These systems can leverage an active RFID architecture or can be utilized by either a larger-scale or smallerscale system such as cellular technologies, Wi-Fi, or out-of-band (OOB) technologies. All location-based solutions leverage the same Active RFID-type infrastructure with a distributed reader network in conjunction with a battery-powered RFID tag (See section titled: “Active RFID Architecture and Components”). In order to augment the generic active RFID, intelligence is augmented into any one or multiple components of the system depending on the wireless technology. Wi-Fi-based LBS solutions leverage the increased intelligence at the RFID tags and backend systems. RFID tags have additional intelligence that allows them to calculate relative signal strength indicator (RSSI) information from the wireless access point infrastructure. This information is then forwarded to a positioning server that triangulates the most probable location based on signal strength and
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pre-determined empirical data. This allows the wireless network to maintain the standard-based approach while achieving a more accurate asset location while operating within a confined space Expanding on this concept are Out-Of-Band (OOB) RTLS technologies. These technologies leverage a completely proprietary approach to triangulation. Tags often send out a beacon or signal to the wireless infrastructure. These wireless access points are specially designed to understand various aspects of the beacon signal such as angle of arrival, signal strength, and accurate time stamping. This information is passed to the backend RTLS server that utilizes a combination of criteria such as angle of arrival, signal strength, time differentials of access point receipts, etc., and calculates a precise point. Because of the very specialized nature of these systems, accuracy is greatly increased and can often reduce error to several inches. Cellular-based LBS provides a wide area LBS system with the range being the coverage of the cellular network. Through these systems, cellular devices can be located by one of two means: Autonomous GPS or Assisted-GPS. The autonomous GPS works by incorporating a satellite receiver into a cellular device (either a phone or asset tracking tag). These units triangulate the location in a latitude / longitude format by receiving data from 3-5+ satellites, and then transmitting these coordinates to the backend location services for interpretation. This produces a fairly accurate location resolution, however does not have the capability of accurately positioning an asset in covered areas such as garages, dense tree lines, and large metropolitan centers. Assisted-GPS (A-GPS) devices require much less energy for a fix, allowing the device to have a smaller battery and hence a smaller form factor. The network assists the device by providing the GPS satellites that are closest to its position. The device receives the data from only those satellites. A-GPS devices also use cellular tower signal strength information in conjunction with GPS satellites or just cellular tower data alone. More detailed information about these LBS technologies is covered in section 5 – Real-Time Location Systems.

3.5

Compound Solutions (RFID / WAN)
In addition to the basic architectures found within the RFID systems, many compound architectures exist that link several complex and complimentary technologies together to assist in developing highly functional solutions. These
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robust solutions often integrate in several areas and can operate either independently and share information via the backend systems, or combine several components at the tag level to provide a high level of intelligence to the RFID device to properly process and display appropriate location information to users. Typically, mobile solutions requiring real-time information access will utilize a compound architecture including a wireless wide area network. An example of this type of solution could be the delivery of product, which requires verification of quantities and items delivered. An RFID reader can be installed inside a truck or van at the back doors. When merchandise is removed from the vehicle, the RFID reader reads the RFID tags upon exit. This information is sent via the vehicle’s GPS / WWAN black box back to a backend system. The information is immediately available and can be sent to the retailer in the form of an invoice or EDI transaction. Other business applications which require this type of architecture are currently in development. This is a fast growing area of RFID solutions because it opens the visibility in locations that were never available to businesses in the past.

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4. RFID Applications
RFID applications have increasingly been touted in the press because of the mandates by large companies and government agencies to tag all inventory delivered at the case and pallet levels. Quite honestly, the many kinds of applications and the many ways RFID can be used to improve business operations are restricted only by people’s imagination. Some examples are as follows:

RFID tags inserted into surgical sponges; surgery patients are scanned before completing the medical operation to ensure sponges did not accidentally remain inside the surgical cavity; mitigating a huge liability for hospitals and doctors. RFID chips have been used to track pets by inserting a tag under the pet’s skin. New applications have spun off from this such as automatic pet door openers – when the correct RFID tag has been read, the doggie door opens to let your pooch in the house. Meat is tracked all the way from the farm where the cow originated to the meat sold at the grocery store, allowing for immediate response if tainted meat is found; a significant bonus for product safety as well as proof of organic products. Diabetes patients have inserted a semi-passive RFID chip with glucose sensor incorporated under their skin. A combination RFID reader and cellular transmitter is worn by the patient. Alarms are raised to the patient and to the patient’s doctors and/or caregivers when certain threshold glucose levels are measured. In some cases, the equipment administers an insulin dose.

4.1 Enterprise Solutions
Enterprise solutions provide comprehensive end-to-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions, which typically center on Automated Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) applications. By collecting data, which was not available previously, or was delayed by manual data entry requirements, companies can gain business insight; previously unavailable and likely not used
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by their competitors. This visibility to assets and other critical business entities allows companies to seize a competitive advantage in the marketplace. In general, the focus of RFID solutions for enterprises lies in applying the technology to create a strategic advantage by:

Providing real-time and accurate data, Increasing efficiencies in business operations, Improving overall productivity, Providing insight into critical business processes, and Improving customer service. Many of the traditional enterprise RFID solutions have been simple solutions without interfaces or exchanges with other companies or partners. These solutions provide a quicker and safer Return on Investment (ROI) due to the less complex implementation. While interfacing data with business partners adds a valuable new dimension to RFID solutions, it adds complexity, cost, and length of deployment time. Classic examples of traditional RFID solutions include: Work-in-process tracking Yard management / Trailer tracking Asset tracking Access control Transit cards Libraries’ book tracking Looking forward, many of these closed-loop systems lay the groundwork for larger and open system applications. Once the infrastructure is in place for the automated data collection, it is a matter of building the interfaces to provide endto-end tracking and exchange of data with partners and government entities. In short, more and more companies are discovering ways to enhance their business operations by using RFID. Some of these are new tracking solutions providing visibility not available before and some use of RFID is integrated to

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existing applications by providing automatic, fast, and accurate data collection methods.

4.2 Asset Tracking
In today’s market, there is a greater need for public and private corporations to understand resource effectiveness. Strategic Asset Management provides companies with better visibility of asset location, utilization, and effectiveness. A recent study of the companies surveyed indicates:1 Logistical asset operations cost accounted for At least 5% of revenue for 50% of the companies At least 10% of revenue for 17% of the companies 12% of IT assets are lost, misplaced, or stolen a year 25% lose or misplace more than 10% of their container fleet per year 50% have manual, labor-intensive asset management processes 75% believe existing manual processes and systems fail to meet operational maintenance requirements Part of the complexity of these solutions includes mapping the customer’s requirements to determine which technologies would best fit the needs of the organization while providing the most economical and scalable solution. A variety of technologies may accomplish the task of tracking and monitoring the location of assets within a compound, facility, or supply chain; however, each can provide a different cost-benefit case based on the customer’s specific environment, assets, and requirements. If the application requires the specific advantages that span multiple solution types, it is possible to combine technologies into the appropriate solution with a compound architecture for your exact scenario (e.g., an A-GPS and passive RFID positioning tag for specific kinds of high-risk or high-visibility assets).

1

1 Aberdeen Group, “RFID-Enabled Logistics Asset Management: Improvising Capital Utilization, Increasing Availability, and Lowering Total Operational Costs”

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4.2.1

Visibility Categories
There are four (4) main types of asset tracking applications, which differ based on the required visibility frequency and location of the assets: 1. Wide-Area or Real-Time asset tracking – typically utilizing AssistedGPS, this solution provides the maximum visibility for assets that are not contained within a building or campus environment. This type of deployment is commonly used for shipping of critical assets to provide visibility in transit, or other high-value items that move from one location to another, such as a bank bag going from the bank’s vault via armored car to a consolidation point. 2. In-Building or In-Facility Real-Time asset tracking – since these assets are always assumed to be within a defined perimeter, a more local network can be used for the real-time tracking; either an active RFID tag or a Wi-Fi active asset tag is used for tracking within a facility or campus. These systems can also provide alerts when an asset disappears from visibility, assuming the asset has left the perimeter of the network coverage. 3. Entry / Exit or Choke Point asset tracking – this type of solution provides fixed point visibility for tracking assets when entering or exiting a particular area, room, or building. When assets are to be maintained at a particular location, alerts can be provided to alarm when an asset is leaving a designated area. This is also useful for the check out process of assets at exits by automatically associating the asset to the employee; this type of system can also ensure that assets passing through choke points are being removed by their owner or by an employee with appropriate authority. Another classic example of choke point visibility is Yard Management solutions, which track trucks and containers upon entering or exiting a yard or storage area. 4. Process-Driven or Instance asset tracking – this type of tracking is done when an asset is going through a process; for example, a manufacturing line - management can know when the product hits each stage of manufacturing and can automatically route certain products based on specific requirements. Another common process is for assets that must go through regular safety checks; the process can be tracked, and the status of the safety check recorded on the RFID tag and even automatically reported to a government regulatory body.

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Asset tracking is the most common RFID application being deployed today and provides the most rapid ROI for companies. They are easily scalable and very reliable while requiring little or no infrastructure build-out.

4.2.2

Loss Prevention
Asset theft and loss is a multi-billion dollar problem. Highly-mobile assets, or assets / inventory in transit are the most vulnerable to loss and shrinkage, including bank bags, data storage tapes, cargo/containers, and construction site and rental assets. The traditional way to protect these assets is to have people physically oversee the process or even hand carrying assets to ensure their delivery. However, drawbacks exist when relying on humans alone to protect the irreplaceable. Assisted-GPS asset tracking solutions are reliable and are now more affordable to track the physical whereabouts of any asset. Portable and easily hidden, these tracking devices can provide location in buildings and subways and cars, where GPS alone can not provide a fix. These solutions can track assets no matter where they are, in all temperatures, indoors or outdoors, 24 hours per day, assuming the device has cellular or other network coverage.

4.2.3

Regulatory Compliance
Many government agencies are piloting and studying RFID technology to be used for the tracking of compliance requirements. Tracking the transport of hazardous materials, food, pharmaceuticals, and other regulated materials can provide a ‘chain-of-custody’ record that can satisfy the FDA, DOT, OSHA, and other reporting requirements. The RFID tags used to record this data can be integrated to the vehicle tracking solution to provide real-time location and status of the products. This can include integration to refrigeration vehicles for temperature-sensitive food and products. Another government regulation is called the TREAD Act (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation), which mandates the tracking of tire traceability, and RFID can be the most effective and cheapest way to comply with this tracking requirement. Each tire must have a unique identification number and the id must be associated with the VIN of the car. New adhesives and coatings for tags are being introduced to withstand this harsh environment.

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4.3 Supply Chain and Inventory Tracking
4.3.1 Manufacturing
Significant improvements can be made in the manufacturing process by utilizing RFID technology to track goods. The following areas are the ones receiving the most interest in increased tracking and real-time location in this industry:

Improved monitoring of work-in-process Real-time location and inventory control of raw materials Real-time location and inventory control of finished goods Automated inventory counts Real-time tracking and monitoring of capital equipment Yard Management Given the real-time and unattended capabilities of RFID, data is available faster, and results in much more accurate information. Companies benefit from the superior visibility alone, but also can reduce inventory levels of safety stocks, reduce labor costs, and reduce inventory levels, approaching a just-in-time inventory process.

4.3.2

Work-in-Process
In many environments barcodes are very difficult to read on a manufacturing floor, due to heat, paint, chemical and other processes incurred during manufacturing. To provide real-time visibility and automated movement of goods throughout the production process, RFID tags can be attached to products and RFID readers attached to the assembly machinery and stations, allowing for unattended and automatic movement of the materials through the appropriate assembly stations. This can eliminate many common errors in production environments today, and reduces labor costs and rework requirements. This application typically utilizes a local area network and a short range or passive RFID tag.

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4.3.3

Real-Time Location and Control of Inventory
Depending on the needs of the business solution, near real-time inventory and its location can be available for raw materials in reusable bins, or finished goods stored in warehouses. Sometimes these systems require active tags or RTLS tags (such as Wi-Fi tags), but in many cases the same tag that may be required on a finished product or case can be used for location by installing RFID readers on fork lifts. This multi-purposing of the tags greatly reduces the cost and increases the ROI. In addition, traditional barcodes are unable to compete with RFID tags for the following reasons: RFID tags can be read through packaging and cases No orientation of the tags is required RFID tags can withstand harsh environments, such as dirt, heat, moisture, chemicals (these tags are more costly than typical passive inventory RFID tags) Multiple products can be read at one time / faster read-rate Ability to read / write and re-write data on the tags Readers can be placed in locations that would allow alerts and notifications to be sent if inventory leaves a particular area. CPG manufacturers can reduce their shrinkage (inventory loss) by implementing these secure storage areas.

4.3.4

Reusable Bin Tracking
Another area that is increasing in deployments is tracking of raw materials and the reusable bins they are stored in, from the supplier to the manufacturer. Millions of dollars each year are lost by large manufacturers due to lost or stolen reusable bins. These containers are sent to their suppliers to be loaded with parts that have been ordered. The tracking of these bins is difficult at best, making it almost impossible to prove responsibility or liability of the loss of the bins. Many manufacturers have clauses in their contracts indicating required return time of bins, and penalties for non-compliance, but they have no ability to enforce this clause. Wide area tracking devices or passive RFID tags with wide area mobile computers can offer tracking adequate to recover the cost of lost or stolen bins, assuming operational changes are put in place to read the tags upon each movement and to assign liability to partners when bins are dropped off at their locations.

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4.3.5

Mobile Inventory and Field Sales
An area in which wide area wireless networks are critical is field sales and services. Direct store delivery of goods, in-store inventory counts, and vehicle inventory maintenance are examples of solutions in which an integrated solution of RFID reader in a handheld computer, along with a cellular modem for real-time backhaul of the data. These types of applications are growing as costs of widearea data are reduced. Many of these drivers are carrying mobile computers for barcode scanning or signature capture already. The same device can have a fully integrated (or add-on attachment) RFID reader and WAN modem.

4.4 Workforce Management
RFID has been used for years as personal identification in the form of an employee badge used to provide access to secured buildings. The badges can take many form factors and provide a tamper-proof form of identification. They can be used for automated Time and Attendance tracking, enabling companies to streamline payroll and maximize resource allocation. Some companies are piloting the use of the NFC chip in cell phones to be used as the employee badge replacement as well – one less card to carry. Similar access control / identification systems include wristbands for patients at hospitals or long term care facilities and customers at theme parks or ski resorts. In some cases the same ID tag can be used for cashless payments or other services.

4.5 Security and Safety
4.5.1 Patient Care The focus of attention of any health care institution is always on the patient; RFID technology enablement is helping to provide solutions that address patient care validation, tracking and extending services to families. In addition, A-GPS technologies are providing wide area tracking of assets and people in new and important ways for patient safety. Some examples of these types of applications surrounding patient care include: Patient Tracking – There have been many articles and discussions in the media about wandering and missing patients. Often the discussion has been targeted at natal care units, the elderly, and psychiatric and
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mentally challenged patients. Within the past three years, many specialized RTLS solutions have been developed to help track patents. Medical vendors are progressing with this technology to provide sensors with GPS and medical monitors to validate the state of the patient even when they are at home. Patient validation – Although there are typically many validation points to ensure that the patient receives the accurate treatment or care, patient misidentification and improper medication issuance continue to kill and injure people every year in the US. The use of RFID technology provides hospitals with the ability to monitor and validate that processes are performed and that they are performed at the right time to ensure patient safety. This can include patient medication dispensing validation as well as treatment validation to ensure the correct patient is about to receive the proper treatment. Specialized Care Instructions – by utilizing an RFID reader with a mobile handheld computer, clinical staff can implement special instructions or reminders to the patient Medical History – By cross referencing the unique RFID information located on a patient’s bracelet, a healthcare practitioner can have quick access to patient information, including patient history, allergies, dietary constraints, special conditions, etc. . Family Services – RFID technology can also be helpful to families and other associated non-clinical caregivers of the patient. One example is the use of RFID enabled family cards. The card contains a number which can be associated to the patient care instructions. Kiosks in the hospital can be used in conjunction with the appropriate security (password, family name, other limited information) to provide the following information: Current patient information Printouts for the care giver on instructions for care delivery Next visit appointments These services are popular with patients who are either in long term care or those who require frequent visits to the hospital (i.e. dialysis, chemotherapy, etc).

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It should be noted that patient privacy considerations are important components to each of these solutions and as such, the incorporation of the proper systems and processes are even more important when considering HIPPA and other security constraints. 4.5.2 Labs and Specimens

Laboratory and Specimen Tracking – laboratory work and specimen tracking is always a demanding health care service which involves triaging of lab work, producing analysis quickly and accurately, and ensuring that all of the records are properly processed. RFID technology has entered laboratories to progress tracking to the next level – this technology has helped to enhance and streamline the processes associated with processing laboratory requisitions by reducing the number of mislabels and automating manual touch points. RFID Enabled Security - RFID enabled solutions are now being used to safeguard access to dangerous and controlled testing agents, specimens, and diseases. RFID is being used to control access to the rooms, determine when certain items were removed from storage, by whom, and track their movements throughout that specimen’s lifecycle. These solutions are being used to automate the safety, security, and auditing functions around controlled substances and specimens. 4.5.3 Law Enforcement The problems facing federal, state and local prison and law enforcement agencies in the US continue to grow. Prisons are operating well beyond their intended capacity. Overcrowding, construction costs, operating costs, and repeat offenders exacerbate the problem. Electronic monitoring of some of these low risk offenders is a very viable and attractive option. A simple tamper-proof ankle bracelet can provide real-time visibility to the location of offenders, even indoors with the use of Assisted-GPS technology. The application can setup geo-fences to alert authorities of any violations of boundaries – leaving their homes if on home arrest, or nearing a location which is off limits, such as schools or bars. These solutions can use schedules and location profiles to indicate where offenders are required to be within specific locations and specific times and can enable law enforcement to examine behavior for suspicious patterns.
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5. Technology Options for RTLS
5.1 Solution Overview
There are three different technologies that are used for real-time location data. There are pros and cons for each solution within the specific parameters of a customer’s requirements. Those technologies include: • • • Assisted-GPS Location Tracking Wi-Fi Location Tracking Out-of-Band Active RFID Location Tracking

Given the environment in which you are tracking assets, the accuracy required, and the range of movement of these assets, you can determine which technology or architecture will work best for your scenario. In some cases if existing infrastructure is available for use for one type of technology, this can drastically help the cost of implementing the solution. There are times when a unique scenario requires a combination of technologies to provide the appropriate visibility of your assets for the business application, creating a ‘compound’ solution architecture. A cost-benefit analysis will determine the right set of capabilities at the right cost for your organizations assets and environment.

5.2
5.2.1

Assisted-GPS Tracking Solution
Solution Overview
Assisted-GPS tracking solutions are relatively new and are typically offered in conjunction with a cellular network carrier. They combine the use of GPS satellites and cell towers to triangulate a location. Because they use assistance from the network to provide the closest GPS satellites, they don’t have to scan the sky looking for a GPS signal. This feature alone reduces battery consumption making it viable to have a portable form factor instead of the traditional wired GPS devices These tracking devices can obtain GPS fixes with very low signal strength making it possible to receive GPS data when obstructed from the sky (unlike traditional GPS receivers). They can also use cell towers only to triangulate
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location if no GPS signal is available, broadening the areas where this technology will work – such as bank vaults and parking garages. You can begin to see how this type of technology expands the options when tracking your assets beyond your campus or facility. See figure 1 below – a simple architecture with no physical network infrastructure requirements.

Figure 1: A-GPS Location Tracking Solution

We have discussed the significant advantages to this type of solution - no network infrastructure requirements and ability to track the device wherever it goes. There are a couple of major disadvantages - the first is that the device will only provide location and communicate when it is within the network coverage area of that network provider; and the second is the cost of the tags or devices and recurring network charges. They are similar to the composition of a cell phone, therefore the cost of these tracking devices range from $100-500 depending on the features and functionality of them.

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5.2.2

Physical Solution Components
Assisted GPS Tracking Device – a cellular modem, GPS receiver, and battery embedded into a small device the size of a small cell phone. There are optional sensors that can be added to or embedded in the device such as motion sensor, vibration sensor, tamper sensor, temperature, humidity, and light sensors. A motion detection sensor can significantly add to the battery life of the device by automatically tracking the device when it is in motion and going into a semi-sleep mode when the device is stationary. Depending on the number of daily locates on these devices the battery can last up to 1 month on some models. The accuracy of the location data varies greatly based on line-of-sight to the sky and cellular tower density, but a conservative estimate is 20-50 meters. Ruggedized Enclosure – often an outer case is used to house the device if it will be exposed to the elements or requires affixing to some material. The cases can be dust, sand, and water-proof and provide a hard rugged case for protection of the device. The cases can have heavy duty magnets or adhesive for attaching to items (such as the underside of a car wheel well). Armbands have been used for easy attachment to people. Cellular Network Service – to provide the data communications and GPS assistance a cellular network data plan is required. To optimize the location results, a study of the network coverage areas can be done to select the best-fit. Backend Software System – typically these systems work in conjunction with a hosted backend application that provides the interface between the device and the network carrier, and translates the GPS data into a readable format for your employees. Often specific maps of your facilities may be overlaid on the standard map to provide better context when the devices are within your facility. Each device is setup in the system and specific business rules for alerts and reports are defined in the application (such as enter or exit of a geo-fence or lowbattery conditions). Interfaces may be developed to your backend system to exchange asset and location information.

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5.3
5.3.1

Wi-Fi Based Location Tracking Solution
Solution Overview
With Wi-Fi use pervasive at many organizations, Wi-Fi asset tracking becomes a more attractive option because the existing infrastructure can be leveraged, reducing the total cost for an asset tracking solution. If the area in which you need to track your assets is similar to the footprint of Wi-Fi coverage then the cost benefit becomes significant. Even if you have to expand to an outdoor area, or increase the density of the access points within your Wi-Fi network you are ahead of the game regarding infrastructure costs. Wi-Fi based RTLS can provide the location of any asset within your facility, yard or campus at any time. The system can also maintain a complete history of asset movement, and can create alerts and exception based reporting by creating geo-fences and business rules within the system. Wi-Fi tags can have additional motion sensors or tamper-proof sensors to track items only when they have moved and to alert someone if the tag has been removed from its asset. The tags can even have embedded two-way voice capabilities for people tracking and emergency situations. The advantage of this solution is the lower total cost of ownership if you already have an extensive Wi-Fi network to be leveraged. This also equates to a reduction in development and deployment costs, in addition to ongoing support costs associated with a new network infrastructure. The tags are more expensive than active RFID tags, but continue to come down in price, ranging from $20-75 depending on features. See figure 2 below, which utilizes Wi-Fi access points and infrastructure.

.

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Figure 2: Wi-Fi based Location Tracking System

5.3.2

Physical Solution Components
Wi-Fi RTLS Tags - Re-usable Wi-Fi tags communicate via the WLAN network while the backend system calculates location based on site survey data of access points and walking the facility with tags. The tags may be carried by workers to track their movements and increase visibility and safety. This can all be done on existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, however to achieve maximum accuracy, access points may need to be added. Ruggedized Enclosure – Similar to the A-GPS solution, a plastic case can fit over the Wi-Fi tag to make it more rugged and easier to mount. Mobile Data Terminal - As tags are placed onto assets, a mobile data terminal is used to scan the tag and associate the tag ID with the asset ID. A software ‘tag’ or soft client also exists, which is a program that can be loaded onto any WiFi enabled device allowing the device to be tracked within the Wi-Fi network coverage area. RTLS Software – This software can work with any Wi-Fi vendor’s network equipment – it is not proprietary. An enterprise application, which has mapping
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and geo-fencing capabilities, provides easy integration options using standard APIs and XML interfaces. The soft client tag can be loaded onto laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc. All mapping and business rules are defined in this software and extensive reporting capabilities exist.

5.4
5.4.1

Out-of-Band Real-Time Location Solution
Solution Overview
Out-of-Band (OoB) system is another type of RTLS that utilizes signal triangulation to calculate the position of the asset. Compared to the Wi-Fi type of RTLS which uses a standard protocol, OoB RTLS uses a proprietary protocol. OoB RTLS uses a tag to uniquely identify each asset that is being tracked. The tag is powered by a battery and is affixed onto the asset. It provides the location information by communicating with the network of readers. Higher density of the readers provides higher precision of the location information. The tag communicates with the readers using Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) beaconing2. In most cases, the beacons are sent out at a predetermined time interval. There is the option to save battery by using an exciter. An exciter is an activation loop that is usually setup at strategic locations to “wake up” the tag for transmission. Activation loop usually communicates on a much lower frequency and at a much shorter distance compared to the actual communication channel. This provides choke point visibility. In some cases, it is critical to be notified when assets are within certain areas, like exiting a facility. In such situations, using the exciter that allows choke point visibility becomes a desirable option. Some OoB RTLS tags have integrated motion sensors, where the tag only communicates with the readers when the sensor detects motion. OoB RTLS uses a wide variety of location calculation technologies. The most typical ones are: Angle of Arrival (AoA) systems, Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) systems, Time of Arrival (ToA) systems, Time of Flight (ToF) systems, Round Trip Time (RTT) systems and Symmetrical Double Sided Two Way Ranging (SDS-TWR) systems. Among all these types of location calculation technologies, the more common ones are TDOA and AOA.

Detail of OoB Air Interface can be found at http://www.qed.org/Incits/2003/Docs/INCITS T20 N03-023 ANSI Edited 371.1.pdf
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2

TDOA location positioning algorithm, operating at 2.4 GHz frequency range, the tag communicates with three or more readers at any given point of time. The time required for the signal to travel to the reader varies with the distance between the tag and the reader. Utilizing the time differential of arrival, the system can calculate the position of the tag with trilateration. TDOA can collaborate with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to enhance the accuracy of Wi-Fi based RTLS. However, such architecture still requires the network of readers be deployed on top of existing WLAN infrastructure. AoA location positioning algorithm, operating at 5 GHz frequency range, uses an algorithm that calculates the location of the tag by cross-referencing the angle of the arriving signal. AoA algorithm can be conceptualized as “beamforming in reverse”3. The phase shift (arrival time differential of the signal) observed by two directional antenna can be used to calculate the incoming angle of the signal beam. This angle value is ambiguous as the source of the signal can be located at either side of the antenna. With another angle value calculated by another set of directional antennas, this ambiguity can be eliminated, and the system can precisely identify position of the signal source. At certain reader density, this type of OoB RTLS provides 3-dimensional positioning of the tag location. OoB RTLS is most suitable in outdoor environment covering a much wider area, a condition in which Wi-Fi RTLS has challenges. OoB RTLS provides much higher precision measurement than Wi-Fi based RTLS can offer. With the exciter design, functional requirement like securing critical area can be achieved by the provision of choke point visibility. The major drawback of OoB RTLS is its use of proprietary technology instead of an industry wide standardized protocol. This limits the user from selecting among different solution providers, and becomes highly dependent on the selected vendors. In addition, instead of utilizing existing Wi-Fi network, it requires another layer of readers to overlay on top of the existing network infrastructure throughout the compound. The proprietary nature of the technology, together with the extra effort incurred by the deployment and maintenance of the readers, increases the total cost of ownership of the overall solution. See figure 3 below, using active RFID tags and OoB readers.

AoA concept is presented at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angle_of_arrival and http://staff.washington.edu/aganse/beamforming/beamforming.html
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3

Figure 3: OoB Tracking Solution

5.4.2

Physical Solution Components
OoB Ruggedized Tag – A proprietary rugged tag, typically operating at either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. It communicates with the proprietary network infrastructure. Readers – A network of readers is deployed across a given area which communicates with the tag and triangulates the tag / asset location. NEMA and Ruggedized Box Enclosure – Similar to the other solutions, a protective plastic sleeve can be used to protect the OoB tag from the elements. Depending on placement, the readers can also be housed in NEMA enclosures. Backend Software System – Similar to the Wi-Fi solution, the Out-of-Band solutions offer setup of business rules, mapping, geo-fencing, alerts, and open

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APIs to allow for integration into your backend systems. There are some robust applications offered by vendors in this space which concentrate on a particular industry, such as intermodal container tracking in international supply chains. These are geared towards providing easy interchange of data amongst supply chain partners.

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6. Design and Integration Considerations
6.1 Accuracy and Resolution
The accuracy and resolution required for a particular asset tracking solution almost always drives the choice of technology to deploy. But determining the resulting accuracy of a proposed asset tracking system is impossible ahead of time. Some testing in the environment and business scenario of the particular implementation must be done to determine the actual accuracy of any given solution. For most RTLS solutions, the density of the readers (or access points for Wi-Fi tracking solutions) is the most significant factor in determination of the accuracy and resolution of the location reports. The more readers deployed in an area, the more accurate your location will be. However there are so many other factors that can alter the accuracy that each solution must be tested to determine the true accuracy of the solution in that scenario and environment. Some of the other factors include: The reader and tag power consumption Distance from tag to readers Antenna size (for tags and readers) Material of building and contents of building For cellular Assisted-GPS systems, the accuracy depends upon the type of fix that the system is capable of at any given time. There are a series of steps the system goes through starting with the most accurate to determine location and each step or type of fix has different accuracy capabilities. The following are the typical A-GPS stages of location: GPS Fix – the system will first try to obtain information from at least 3 GPS satellites; this typically occurs when the Assisted-GPS device is outdoors and unobstructed. The accuracy of this type of fix can be as good as 1-3 meters. Hybrid Fix – a combination of cell towers and GPS satellites are used to determine location in a similar fashion to the GPS only fix. The accuracy can be 3-10 meters.

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Cell Tower Fix – when no GPS satellites are available, three cell tower positions may be used to determine location. The accuracy may be up to 100 + meters. Cell Sector Fix – if only one cell tower is available, the center of the cell tower is reported. The accuracy depends upon the radius of the cell towers, but could be as high as 10-20 miles in less densely populated areas where this type of fix is most commonly used.

6.2
6.2.1

Privacy Concerns
Privacy
Since the beginning of RFID deployments, privacy has been a major concern. There are many myths about privacy infringement and this section aims to clarify them. RFID and RTLS based tracking can be divided by different frequencies and protocols as shown in the table below:

RFID Frequency UHF

Active/Passive Passive

Privacy Concerns UHF tags attached to consumer products can be tracked outside the facility, thus tracking the product and its owner’s movements.

Ways to Mitigate Risks 1. Tearing off the antenna renders the tag inactive for any future reads 2. Folding the tag, changes the resonance frequency and the read distance 3. By using the Kill Tag feature on Gen 2 UHF tags, we can render the tag inactive for future reads

HF

Passive

The read ranges for HF tags are very low and hence, privacy is not as big an issue like the other frequency tags.

1. Usage of Public-Private Key Cryptology (ECC) can ensure greater security mitigating any privacy risks

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RFID Frequency Active and Semipassive RFID

Active/Passive Active

Privacy Concerns Active tags can be tracked from a greater distance because of their high read range capability.

Ways to Mitigate Risks 1. Most of the Active RFID solutions are proprietary and hence information leakage is very minimal. Also the only information that can be inferred is the tag ID which is akin to viewing the license plate number of a vehicle. 2. Deactivating the radio or removing the battery upon moving out of a facility is one way of ensuring that the tag cannot be read.

Wi-Fi Based

Active

Having a wireless network with weak security measures will allow malicious users to view asset related information.

1. Ensuring that the wireless network has a strong WPA key setup. 2. Regularly performing network audits to find any loopholes that information thieves can target. 3. Keeping the facility physically secured to avoid any illegal physical access.

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RFID Frequency Cellular Based (LBS)

Active/Passive Active

Privacy Concerns Usage of third party tracking solutions to track assets like phones, computers and laptops can be invaded by hackers.

Ways to Mitigate Risks 1. Ensuring that devices like phones, laptops have security management software that can be used to wipe out all information in case of a theft. 2. Ensuring that the third party applications have a two-fold authentication to prevent any information leakage to anyone except the user. 3. Wireless carriers have implemented privacy controls requiring the user of the device to ‘opt-in’ to the tracking application; otherwise they will not allow the individual to be tracked.

There are many cases where the advantages of RFID tracking for people and assets far outweigh the privacy concerns if used in the proper scenarios. Some safety and disaster mitigation solutions are important uses of tracking technology, as well as assistance in medical environments and law enforcement regulations. Examples of these applications are Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who tend to wander; sex offenders who are prohibited from entering certain areas.

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6.2.2

Security
Implementing additional security on RFID tags can mitigate some of the privacy issues surrounding RFID solutions. One example of this type of security is the public-private cryptology using ECC with HF tags. This is a 256 bit encryption that is comparable to a 1024 bit RSA encryption. With ECC, one can ensure a secure way of passing information and making it accessible to only those that have the public key to decrypt the information. This is very beneficial in chain of custody scenarios where digital signatures need to be added by the point of contact at each movement in the chain. ECC works well with HF as each HF tag is etched with a unique ID at manufacturing. Recently, there have been UHF tags that are manufactured with unique ID which can now also be secured with ECC.

6.3
6.3.1

Integration
Various Forms of RFID Applications
The technical architecture of RFID applications can span a variety of complexity, from the simplest form of a standalone application connected to RFID devices, to the full-scale deployment, which involves RFID specific software and integration to enterprise backend applications. The business requirements and technology used drive the complexity of the integration. Two common terms used in RFID solutions are edgeware and middleware. Edgeware works at the edge of the network and filters duplicate data. It can also provide interfaces to peripheral devices that might be used in RFID solutions, such as message boards, status lights, alerts, etc. Edgeware can be included in a middleware offering or some of the functionality can be built into RFID readers, such as data filtering. Middleware enables data exchange between RFID readers and business systems such as ERP, MRP, or WMS systems. It also typically provides data filtering and smoothing. Some middleware includes performance monitoring of the readers on the network. Edgeware can be a part of many middleware products. RFID application architecture can be categorized into three major types:
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Standalone Application – an application that communicates directly with the devices, or maybe even with a legacy backend. Business logic usually resides within this application. Usually, “slap and ship” or mandate-compliance solutions can use this approach. 2-Tiers Distributed Application – an application that communicates to the devices through an edgeware application. Edgeware can exist on a device controller that can be a full-scale computer or simply a PLC. The backend business application communicates to the edgeware with predefined protocol (e.g. JMS, proprietary socket communication, etc). Device related logic can be executed within the edgeware, and all other business logic resides within the application communicating with the edgeware. N-Tiers Distributed Application – uses a middleware application that communicates to an edgeware application. Once the middleware receives messages from the device(s), it translates them into business events, and forwards the events to the appropriate enterprise application(s). With this architecture, the logic is separated into the middleware and the enterprise application. The middleware handles data level decisions, where as the enterprise application(s) conduct business related decisions.

6.3.2

Phases of Integration
Introduction of new technologies to a company takes significant time and planning. Several iterations of implementation and fine tuning may be required to achieve an acceptable final state. There can be many uncertainties during the early phases of a project. Because of this, a project that involves new technology such as RFID and RTLS, should be planned properly and typically will go through multiple stages of implementation. The diagram below illustrates the integration roadmap for these different implementation stages. With the following roadmap of deploying RFID and RTLS technology, the risk and impact can be reduced, major technology investment can be deferred, and ROI can be maximized as early as possible in the project lifecycle.

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Business Integration
Complexity

Process Integration Application Integration Device Integration

Integration Progress Figure 4: Integration Roadmap of RFID and RTLS

6.3.2.1

Device Integration Phase
The earliest phase of a new RFID project should include a pilot in the most simplistic form. This is recommended to experiment with the technology and to realize the benefits prior to full deployment. In most cases, the purpose of the pilot phase is to prove the feasibility of the technology within the operating environment. It also serves to prove the validity of any cost-benefit analysis performed prior to the pilot. A standalone application that integrates directly with devices is sufficient to execute throughout this phase. Data is integrated without complicating any existing application; however, adjustments to the existing business processes may be required. During the design of the pilot it is critical to keep the impact on the existing process to a minimum; as the guiding principle is - the pilot should not jeopardize the efficiency of the operations. In cases where the RFID tags read points require multiple pieces of hardware to communicate with each other, an edgeware should be included. Some of the devices that can be integrated are: reader, printer, motion sensors, light stack, door gates, etc. An example of such a scenario where an edgeware is appropriate would be in the case where the reader only reads when the motion sensor detects asset movements. This type of decision cannot tolerate network latency, and the edgeware located right at the read point can eliminate any such delay. Last but not least, edgeware also provides a layer of device abstraction
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which is especially useful when a heterogeneous set of devices from different manufacturers is being deployed.

6.3.2.2

Application Integration Phase
After experimenting with the technology during the device integration phase, if the desired benefits can be achieved, the project would proceed to the application integration phase. The purpose of this stage is to integrate the data into existing enterprise application(s). Some of the backend applications may need to expose or create integration points. At this stage, more hardware and software may be introduced. A middleware platform can be brought into the picture to reduce the effort of integration. It eliminates custom development required to enable the communication between the front end devices and the backend systems. The complexity of the integration is often driven by the current enterprise applications and architecture. Typically, the more legacy and proprietary systems involved, the more complicated the integration becomes.

6.3.2.3

Process Integration Phase
When the applications are successfully integrated, and data is flowing smoothly throughout the corporation, companies should implement alterations in their existing business and operational processes to gain efficiencies. The purpose of the integration is to streamline some of the processes, enhance data accuracy, reduce time, increase quality, and create strategic opportunities. At this point, the full benefit of the investment is brought to fruition. Process integration is usually studied and measured by business modeling.

6.3.2.4

Business Integration Phase
Up to this point, the project is still executing in a closed environment. This means no (or minimal) integration across companies exists. In order to further realize the benefits that RFID and RTLS can be brought to the business, data should be allowed to flow through different companies in a controlled and wellmanaged process. An example of such application would be the transportation of goods from the manufacturer to the transport company to the distribution center, and final delivery to the retailer. This type of end-to-end asset tracking can provide up to the second real-time visibility of the goods’ movements. It brings an enormous amount of benefit to all parties involved in the transactions. For example, the manufacturer can see if more goods are required at a certain

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distribution center; the retailer has the visibility of the delivery progress and can forecast more accurately and reduce the stock inventory levels.
=

Business process integration with data sharing across company Enterprise Application that makes use of data improve on processes Data to event mapping, data aggregation and association Device control and data filtering
Choke point Readers

Business Domain

Cross company or dept. integration point

Object Directory Service for product info lookup

Web services WMS, ERP, SCM, etc Any form of EDI provided by enterprise app

MiddleMiddleware ware Domain Layer

Enterprise Domain

Application Server, Web Server, etc. hosting the middleware application

DB

Web services, Xform or XML over JMS, or HTTP, etc. RFID Device Controller with GPIO Electronic signal or over the network communication.

Device Domain

Label Printer

Motion Sensors

Hardware Switch

Light Stack, Siren

Figure 5: Integration Architecture Stack

6.3.3

EPCIS – A Global Communication Platform for Product Information
As illustrated in the previous paragraphs, the power of enabling product data sharing across companies in the scope of asset and goods tracking is unprecedented. This has brought about the naissance of EPCIS – Electronic Product Code Information Services. EPC and EPCIS are initiatives established and maintained by GS1.4 EPC, similar to barcode, is a data format that allows differentiating product at the pallet level, the case level, and the item level. It

4

See GS1 website for additional information http://www.gs1.org/
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uses passive RFID technology as a medium to store and transmit the data5. The purpose of EPCIS is to provide a framework to build a global platform that allows trading parties to collaborate by sharing EPC data. Applications can interact with EPCIS6 through various methods. Several common ones are provided below: ALE (Application Level Event) – EPC software standards that provide a list of standard operations that an application usually requires when dealing with EPC data transfer (e.g. read and write operation, data filtering, etc.).7 Capturing Service - EPCIS interface for capturing and submitting of EPC data. Query Service – EPCIS interface for querying information for a particular piece of EPC data. The diagram presented below illustrates the architecture of a standard EPCIS application and the flow of communication.
Authenticati on and Registration Query Service Capturing Service RFID Platform and Internal RFID Network RFID Platform and Internal RFID Network

Supplier Enterprise Network

Retailer Enterprise Network

EPCIS and ONS (DNS for product)

EPCIS and ONS (DNS for product)

Corporate Systems WMS ERP SCM

Corporate Systems SCM ERP WMS

RFID Reader s

RFID Reader s

Figure 6: EPCIS Architecture

5 6

Detailed information about EPC can be found at http://www.epcglobalinc.org/home

Various artifacts and specification of EPCIS can be found at http://www.epcglobalinc.org/standards/epcis 7 ALE is explained in detailed at the following website: http://www.epcglobalinc.org/standards/ale
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6.4
6.4.1

RFID and RTLS Application Development Tools
Characteristic of RFID Software Vendors
As RFID gains momentum across diverse vertical industries, different software vendors have developed solutions and frameworks to help integrate this valuable asset into their operations. These vendors usually specialize in certain market niches. 1. Either the vendor is recognized as expert in certain market segments, or 2. The vendor may have invented and/or incorporated specialized features into their software system. Some of these software vendors are startup companies that focus in RFID and / or RTLS technologies; others are large software firms that have solid and proven application portfolios.

6.4.2

Industry Focused Software Application with RFID Capability
Industry focused software applications usually come with out-of-the-box predefined logic and features to address common scenarios within their industry. With the experience and knowledge the software vendors possess for the industry of their focus, they built the logic that addresses the common business processes into their applications. This kind of application usually requires a minimal amount of development. Even if custom development is required, it would be trivial. This kind of software is usually designed to be modular with abundant flexibility. User can easily customize the application with the built-in business process modules to fit their needs. In the case that custom development is required, usually API in common programming languages like Java and .Net is provided to interact with their application. Examples of this type of application follow: OAT Systems8 - They focus primarily in the supply chain and logistic sector. It is a 2-Tier application that allows a certain degree of interaction with backend system. It uses an edgeware to interact with front end devices like readers, printers, and motion sensors.

8

Products and services offered by OAT System can be found at http://www.oatsystem.com
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Acsis9 - With a standalone application, they are the market leader in software that helps pharmaceutical companies to enable serialization in the distribution process. Vue Technology10 - provides a smart shelf solution for item-level tracking within a retail environment. They offer a special piece of hardware that can amplify and multiplex antenna signal. This is built into their application suite, and their solution provides substantial reduction in total cost of ownership. It is an N-Tier distributed application which provides numerous integration methods, for example, JMS, and Web Services are the two common ones. It also allows custom development on their platform using Java, Visual Basic, and .Net.

6.4.3

RFID Software Application with Specialized Features
Some of the RFID software vendors provide special and unique features that make them prominent comparing to their competitions. These features can be software or hardware related. Depending on the vendors, some of these types of applications do not provide API interface, whereas some provide abundant interfaces to allow communications with different backend systems for various industries. epcSolutions11 is a leading provider for RFID mandate compliance software. It is a standalone application that provides many features which enable the user to comply with different mandates. For example, Department of Defense mandate, Wal-Mart mandate, and Best Buy mandate, etc. AeroScout12 utilizes existing WLAN technology and infrastructure to provide unified asset visibility. Using any Wi-Fi Access Point as AeroScout Location Receiver, the signal is sent to AeroScout processing engine. The location is then calculated using RSSI and/or TDOA by the processing engine. The provision of the MobileView software platform enables the last mile of the technology, and transforms raw location data into meaningful business information. MobileView also allows information from other sources to be reconciled into one unified view; let it be information collected from other type of sensors, or information stored in databases. In addition to providing asset location visibility and information

9

Products and services offered by Acsis can be found at http://www.acsisinc.com Products and services offered by Vue Technology can be found at http://www.vuetechnology.com 11 Products and services offered by epcSolutions can be found at http://www.epcsolutions.com 12 Products and services offered by AeroScout can be found at http://www.aeroscout.com
10

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reconciliation, MobileView also offers value-added features like, enabling searches, automate alerts, manage assets, as well as integration with third party applications. The diagram below illustrates the component architecture of MobileView 4.0.

Figure 7: MobileView 4.0 Architecture

MobileView13 possesses many significant advantages as a single point of unified visibility platform. Some of the key benefits are provided below14: Usable
— —
13

Unprecedented 3D view of locations map. 1 touch search button or complex search with multiple criteria.

Features and specifications of AeroScout MobileView is described at http://www.aeroscout.com/content/mobileview 14 Benefits of MobileView is referenced from MobileView 4.0 Data Sheet available for download at http://www.aeroscout.com/leadcapture/files/AeroScout+System+Data+Sheet_0.pdf
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Event Managers with 17 different built-in event types and various industries specific application modules that address majority of asset tracking requirements.

Flexible

Front end handheld application allows customizations for various application scenarios with zero coding required. Server incorporates modular design for the ease of additional features and functions to be enabled at different stages of deployment.

Scalable

J2EE architecture that has the potential to realize the benefits of powerful high end computer and allows massive data to be processed rapidly. OLAP option for complex queries when generating various types of reports of different dimensions.

Expandable

SOAP API and out of the box adapters available for integration with 3rd party applications. Open API for custom development of modular application for specific needs. Event-based alerting available for common messaging channels (e.g. email, http posting, XML, MS queuing, text messaging, Skype instant messaging)

Reliable

Designed for J2EE application server with renowned high end databases that can utilizes the benefits of clustering, and high availability technologies.

6.4.4

RFID Middleware Suites
When the RFID technology was gaining traction, many large software firms realizing the potential of this cutting edge technology also invested in expanding their application suite to include RFID capability. Two of the large firms representing the two most commonly used development languages (Java and C/C++ based) have created the corresponding platform for developers to build RFID applications on.
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6.4.4.1

RFID Development with Java
IBM, being a long time advocate of Java development, has created the IBM RFID Device infrastructure15. It is an N-Tier solution where an edgeware device controller communicates with front end devices like reader, printers, sensors, etc. It uses J9 (IBM lightweight JVM for embedded device) as a java runtime engine that runs an OSGi interface16 called SMF (System Management Framework). The SMF platform allows developers to custom design and develop applications to run within the edgeware domain. These custom developed applications can interact with devices, perform first-hand filtering, or format data to send up to the backend ERP systems. On the upstream, the device controller communicates with IBM Premises server17. It associates and aggregates data read into business events and forwards that to the IBM Integration server. The Integration server provides a single point of integration for applications across the enterprise network. In terms of RFID, the integration server will act as a gateway that routes business events triggered by RFID reads to other appropriate enterprise applications. Below is a diagram that depicts the components of IBM RFID Device infrastructure and how they relate to each other.

15

IBM WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure - http://www.wug.ch/documents/20070208/1%20Overview%20%20Whats%20New%20in%20WebSphere.pdf 16 More information at http://www.osgi.org/Main/HomePage 17 IBM Premises Server information is available at http://www01.ibm.com/software/integration/premises_server/about/
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Figure 8: IBM RFID Device Infrastructure

18

IBM also provides a toolkit for developing and customizing RFID applications on top of the IBM RFID Device Infrastructure. It is an Eclipse based development IDE. It allows for easy development without the developer needing to know any of the device detail. Integration to any existing enterprise system is also provisioned with common interfaces like JMS, XML and Web Services. Documentation of the IBM RFID Device Infrastructure can be found at http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/pvcsensa/v6r1m0/index.jsp . Other advocates of Java based RFID middleware includes BEA19, and Sun Microsystem20. They are also N-Tier applications with a similar architecture as the one presented above.

18 19

IBM Pervasive Computing - IBM RFID Solutions Software Customer Briefing presentation BEA RFID product can be obtained at http://www.bea.com/framework.jsp?CNT=index.htm&FP=/content/products/weblogic/rfid#), 20 Sun RFID Software is available at https://jcaps-rfid.dev.java.net/index.html
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6.4.4.2

RFID Development with .NET
Microsoft, as the largest software vendor in the world, certainly has contributed in promoting RFID technology with their software stack. Like the Java-based software vendor, Microsoft BizTalk RFID21 architecture also uses an N-Tier, layered approach. Like any BizTalk Server product, it is an XML and process driven middleware. Tools are available to design and deploy the custom application to run on BizTalk RFID22. This significantly minimizes development effort. The diagram below describes the BizTalk RFID layered approach and the inter-communication between the layers.

21 22

Microsoft BizTalk RFID 2006 is documented at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb430725.aspx Microsoft RFID Infrastructure is well explained in http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa479354.aspx
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Figure 9: Microsoft BizTalk RFID Architecture

23

Starting at the bottom is the Device Service Provider Interface (DSPI). This is an abstraction layer that provides abstract interface that device driver code must follow in order to enable any piece of hardware into the Microsoft RFID Infrastructure. Many hardware vendors have already created the code that implements this interface. Examples of what the interface dictates are: device discovery, configuration, event handlers, device state, etc. This type of device enablement code is called the Device Provider. DSPI generalizes the protocol that BizTalk RFID follows to communicate with Device Provider in the form of commands and responses. Device Provider can also interact with DSPI through implementing .Net events and .Net event handler defined by DSPI. DSPI also standardizes the attributes that the device provider should expose. On top of the DSPI is the Event Processing Engine. This is the heart of the Microsoft BizTalk RFID. It acts as the middleware that is responsible for filtering, aggregating, and translating RFID data into business events. It allows grouping of devices (e.g. by location, dock door 1 readers or conveyor belt readers), as well as provides device management functionalities. In order to make use of the Event Processing Engine, Microsoft BizTalk RFID provides utilities to orchestrate RFID business process. Within Microsoft terminology, a process includes one or more events and event handlers. A process can also include device interaction. It refers to the device by the device group that is defined through the Event Processing Engine. This way, the process can disregard the detail of the devices. Interchanging different devices or regrouping devices will not impact the process definition. RFID Infrastructure Object Model (OM) and APIs allow custom events to be developed. The Object Model and the APIs together allow developers to create any type of process and the associated events quickly. It also includes the tools necessary to deploy the events to the Event Processing Engine. There are also other tools like the Designer and Adapter which help developers to create different business processes. The Designer allows developers to orchestrate business processes. The Adapter, as the name suggests, is an entity that exposes RFID events to other enterprise systems. With this structured layered approach, developers are abstracted from lower level device knowledge. This facilitates developers across different functional groups
23

http://i.msdn.microsoft.com/Aa479354.rfidinfra02(en-us,MSDN.10).gif
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within a corporation to collaborate by working with only one source or RFID data. This also allows them to work independently within the defined process and not affect other groups. Another middleware that uses .Net technology as a development platform is RFIDAnywhere from Sybase iAnywhere. It is a distributed application that communicates with devices directly (i.e. edgeware functionalities are built into the middleware). As a middleware, it provides multiple connectors and interfaces to communicate among themselves (in the case of multi-site deployments) as well to other enterprise systems.

6.4.5

Communication with RFID Hardware
RFID hardware spans across a wide range of equipment. It can range from a sophisticated RFID reader to a simplistic motion sensor. This is why an edgeware controller or middleware will reduce and simplify the design and deployment of RFID solutions. The list below provides the catalog of the commonly used hardware, explains their usage, and describes the common communication channel between the hardware and the application. RFID Reader – many of the RFID readers already come with control and management facilities. RFID readers used to only allow traffic over the serial port; however, most of the common RFID readers today have incorporated network access functionality. Some readers are even Wi-Fi enabled. RFID Printer – Most RFID printers are label and ticket printers that have RFID module add-on. They are used to communicate over parallel port or serial port. Similar to the reader, many of them already have network enabled communications. They are equipped with a management and control web console. This allows remote management right out of the box. A new feature of some printers is the ability to print the antenna right onto the label to create a passive RFID tag, without having to buy the tag rolls for the printers. This is new technology and will help to reduce the cost of passive tags even more. Label Applicator – Label applicator is a piece of equipment that applies labels automatically. It is widely used in packaging facilities and manufacturing lines. In most cases, it does not need to communicate with the software application. This is because with different sensors, it already has the intelligence of when to roll out the labels and affix them to the product.

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Motion Sensor – This is a piece of hardware that has less intelligence, yet it is very important in many RFID deployments. Tracking assets on a conveyor belt, dock door reading scenarios, and tracking assets on forklifts all requires motion sensor in order to work accurately. Since motion sensors do not possess much intelligence, often a device controller with GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) will be required to go along with it. The application communicates with the device controller to get feedback from the motion sensor. The edgeware device controller usually comes with GPIO. It has the capability to execute customized development within the controller. With code executing locally to interact with the motion sensor, it eliminates any network latency. This is especially critical in the case of reading RFID tags on high speed conveyor belt. Some RFID readers are also equipped with GPIO. In the case where a trip sensor detecting motion will trigger the reader to start reading, the GPIO built-in to the reader is very practical. Light Stack and Siren – These are user feedback devices that can be very important depending on the business process. Their primary usage is to notify users in the error case. For example, an asset is going into the wrong storage location. Like motion sensors, they connect to a device controller that is equipped with GPIO, and the application controls it to go on and off through the controller.

6.5

Future Technology Trends
As RFID and RTLS technology matures, inventors continue to fine tune and revamp the technologies to address our everyday problems. Some of these technologies aim at providing unparallel performance, while others target standardizing protocols and business cases across industries. The list below unveils some of these technologies with sample applications on how the world realizes their benefits to bring conveniences in our everyday life.

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Technology Near Field Communication (NFC)

Description Near Field Communication (NFC) is a standards-based, short-range (a few centimeters) wireless connectivity technology that enables simple and safe two-way interactions among electronic devices, allowing consumers to perform contactless transactions, access digital content and connect electronic devices with a single touch. New data security standards have emerged in the payment card industry that must be included in mobile phone NFC payments as well.

Applications NFC technology can enhance contactless payment at shop check-outs or unattended payment machines like parking meters. You can pay using virtual payment cards or e-money. Contactless tickets have revolutionized transport and event ticketing with their speed and flexibility. With NFC-enabled devices like mobile phones, you can buy tickets, receive them on your device and then go through “fast track” turnstiles while others wait. You can check your balance or update your tickets remotely. You can quickly download information (such as a bus timetable) by bringing your NFCenabled phone or PDA close to a sign with NFC-readable information.

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Near Field UHF

Far Field UHF (FF UHF) tag using back scattering as the underlying signal reflection technology can usually be read at a distance of a minimum 4 – 8m. Near Field UHF (NF UHF) tag using magnetic field to reflect signal. This increases the read rates, which means the reader can read more tags with the same amount of time. However, the signal produced will decay much faster, which shortens the read distance (~ 50cm). With the antenna size equal ½ wavelength, the tag size can be much smaller within the UHF frequency range.

The unique properties of NF UHF make it an ideal candidate for item-level tracking solution, where tags are usually read in close range. Smart-shelf to track items in a retail store and warehouses. Tracking drug at item-level at pharmaceutical manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, in order to comply with any ePedigree act. Casino chip and playing card tracking that requires reading in short distance. Location Based Advertising where content provider can push information to end-user based on their location and interest. A-GPS - compensates GPS to calculate location when satellite signal is not available. Proximity social networking – allows end users to find acquaintance who are within certain range of their current locations.

LBS with WiMAX

WiMAX networks have been deployed as 802.16 Metropolitan Area Network. This provides high-speed Internet access coverage across the city. It uses similar infrastructure as today’s cellular technologies with BSC and MSC, as such, carriers can take advantage of the infrastructure and deploy LBS across the city. Since Internet access is readily available, WiMAX LBS can easily marry the location information with the Internet accessibility and provides value-added services to their end customers.

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ZigBee

ZigBee standard enabling control and monitoring capabilities for industrial and residential applications within a +100-meter range. Addresses the unique needs of remote monitoring & control, and sensory network applications. Enables broad-based deployment of wireless networks with low cost, low power solutions. Provides the ability to run for years on inexpensive primary batteries for a typical monitoring application.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure Automatic Meter Reading Lighting controls HVAC control Heating control Environmental controls Wireless smoke and CO detectors Home security Blind, drapery and shade controls Medical sensing and monitoring Universal Remote Control to a Set-Top Box which includes Home Control

In the years to come, we will continuously see more and more new inventions that address today challenges of tracking asset at all levels. New applications of current asset tracking technologies will also be discovered when industry experts are preached to about the capacity of the technologies. Soon enough, the effort and cost of tracking assets will be significantly reduced and corporations will be able to focus on the core of their business.

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7. Case Study
7.1 Large Financial Institution Tracks Assets in Transit
Over the past few years, there have been several publicized events in which there has been a leak of private information, which has lead to an increased concern for fraud and consumer safety. As several of these cases have been reported, consumers often recall these accounts, and organizations spend significant time and dollars not only identifying the issue within their system, but tracking and warning effected users, and combating any stigmas that their information is unsafe at their organizations. As a result, there is a push from many businesses to proactively monitor any potential forms of risk, and then mitigate them prior to the need of any additional public relations support, or malicious information exposure. At the center of the debate is the risk of disclosing not only personal information, but also information regarding financial accounts such as credit, debit, and banking information. Financial institutions have found it necessary to safeguard not only their data infrastructure, but also the policies and procedures which govern the information transfer. One organization had a unique area in which an additional risk was discovered: Physical transport. Within any organization, there is a certain amount of relocation of either an employee, or potentially a full office. When offices and employees move, it is important for the organization to transport the office furniture, and tools to the appropriate area, while understanding that there is a significant amount of private data found on the workstations of their staff. This poses a unique problem in that an office move can potentially last several days, and is often contracted to a third party in which limited privacy governance exists. In order to combat this issue, the organization was looking for a means to track and identify any potential risks during the move, rather than after private information was found to be compromised. Several key challenges have hindered the capability of previous technology to be effective in this area. The solution had to: Robustly handle transportation of goods both in and outside of buildings Have the ability to provide visibility and resolution that could be utilized for a move that happens within a block to across the country

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Be highly reliable and able to be monitored, potentially for several days if needed Maintain a fairly small form factor as to not be obtrusive to the items being tracked Provide a resolution in which a package could be recovered if necessary Provide an audit trail for further investigation or prosecution

Taking into account the key requirements, the company decided to deploy asset tags that use A-GPS over a cellular network to provide the business requirements. Through this technology, a small form factor unit has the capability to track an RTLS tag throughout the cellular coverage area both inside and outside of building structures. Key to this technology are backend ASPs that provide detailed tracking services that have a high level of accuracy and resolution that has been grown from the active monitoring or probationary criminals and convicts. The deployment of this solution included a process in which the tags were charged and placed within several key boxes that contained either physical files or computers for transport. The system would actively monitor the shipments, and an operator could identify if any unusual behavior occurred, such as the truck transporting the equipment to another town prior to the final destination, or it sat at a particular location for more than a day. As a result of this implementation, the financial institution was able to minimize their potential risk, saving millions of dollars by actively monitoring shipments. In additional to the risk mitigation benefits, they also discovered additional means in which to optimize their relocation processes and procedures, leading to an even faster ROI. Presently, they are considering an increased rollout to monitor additional shipments such as data backups within their organization.

7.2 DHS and Major Retailers Secure Merchandise in Supply Chain
In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has been searching for the right technology or process to secure intermodal shipping containers arriving from other countries. They have financed multiple large-scale studies of different types of technology to help determine the best overall solution. As a part of these studies, major retailers, manufacturers, third party logistics companies and

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technology companies have come together to test RFID tracking as a possible solution. The solution involved the tracking of consumable products that were farmed or manufactured in suspect countries and shipped to the United States for consumption. The products included coffee beans from Guatemala going to coffee shops in the US and meat from Namibia for sale in the UK and US. The technology used was an RFID smart seal on the shipping containers which served multiple purposes – lock the container, electronically seal the container, maintain a transaction log of who opened / closed the container and when, integrated temperature, light and humidity sensors, integrated tamper sensors, integration to refrigeration units on refrigerated containers, and integration to GPS vehicle tracking units on tractors pulling the containers. Throughout these supply chains there were multiple locations where RFID tags needed to be read and updated; however, there was no infrastructure to connect to and send the data. A wireless network must be utilized for real-time tracking. Remote workers at international and US ports as well as US customs officials working at US ports to inspect containers needed access to electronically unlock the sealed containers and to read the tamper state of the RFID tags. Wireless handheld computers were utilized with built-in GSM/GPRS modems so these officials could read, update, and open the smart seals. Below is an example architecture drawing of the supply chain studies.

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Figure 10: Case Study Solution Architecture

This solution is a great example of real-time critical tracking in locations where the only means of communication is a WWAN modem. There are many examples of these types of applications. This study was successful and many partners in various supply chains are working to move this type of solution into a production environment.

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8. References
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb430723.aspx - BizTalk RFID 2006 R2 http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb750141.aspx - RFID Device Provider http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb745997.aspx - Tutorial http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/7/6/3767E9D7-46624AE6-B0C3-FFB4A68121DC/biz_rfid.doc - BizTalk on RFID https://jcaps-rfid.dev.java.net/index.html - Sun RFID with Java http://sun.java.net/rfid-sensors/ - Sun RFID with Java http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-ca/rfid/default.aspx Microsoft RFID developer center http://www.interop.com/lasvegas/2004/presentations/downloads/wc 05_j_baker.pdf - IBM RFID Device Infrastructure http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/2694/ - Near Field UHF http://www.mobiletechnews.com/info/2008/08/29/122702.html LBS on WiMAX http://www.nfc-forum.org/resources/faqs#howwork – NFC Forum http://www.zigbee.org/en/about/faq.asp - ZigBee Alliance

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