Feeds

Managing the RFID opportunity

Don't let hype overshadow risk

Security for virtualized datacentres

Risk appraisal and holistic design

An RFID project is similar to any other large IT project and will have the usual risks these attract. However, an RFID project may be sponsored by the business without reference to the IT group, in which case the IT group may not be sufficiently involved, so the experience it already has may not be taken advantage of. As McIntyre points out, you must involve all stakeholders in the project, including the IT group, which will have to implement and maintain much of the supporting technology.

An RFID project will likely be a big project (and big projects are always risky) with high visibility at board level, which increases the risk even further. It will likely cross organisational boundaries, another risk factor, and have both operational and infrastructure implications.

Integration will be a major risk area - the metadata and semantics of the RFID data must be consistent with existing operational data, or you will store up future maintenance problems even if the initial RFID project "works" in the short term. Once you collect data for inventory, management will come up with business intelligence applications for it and this can be another source of confusion. McIntyre says managing integration was a major factor in his system's success: "Our decision from the beginning was not to be a stand alone application," he says. "And that's why we have such a good relationship with TIBCO" (which provides the fundamental integration underlying his different systems).

Operational risk must always be considered - potentially, you might be collecting a lot of RFID data, so the capacity of the existing network may be an issue. And, of course, database volumes may be impacted. McIntyre says his active tag supplier provides a software package which consolidates tag blinks into meaningful transactions: "We're basically keeping all the non-pertinent information off the network and keeping it from being clogged up", he says.

Then there are people risks. RFID can help implement a "big brother" culture, in which people feel under observation all the time - and dysfunctional sabotage is always a possibility. RFID tracking can promote good things, such as equalising of workloads and prevention of petty theft too, but you must get everyone's buy-in and discuss any issues with unions etc. Also, remember to make sure training is available to those involved with any new technology.

There are security risks too, as RFID usually tracks RFID tags, not objects themselves. Is an empty DVD recorder box with an RFID tag indistinguishable from a DVD recorder? Can I invoice for goods when all I deliver is RFID-tagged boxes? RFID tagging can help control pilferage, but it can also enable it, potentially on a larger scale.

All these risks can be addressed, as long as they are identified in time. RFID is a new technology; often, identifying technology risk, and the "good practice" for addressing it, is part of company culture - but company culture may not have caught up with new technology. Once again, don't overlook training (and the availability of external experienced mentors) as a tactic for achieving cultural change.

Which brings us to the question of holistic design. This is where you address risk factors and design a business process that is not just a technology solution, but includes operational and architectural aspects. Unless you analyse and design the manual processes around the RFID technology and processing, how can you validate the interfaces to the automated processes and ensure the risks have been adequately controlled? After all, risk management often comes down to proactive exception reporting, resulting in more or less ad-hoc human decisions; ideally, taken before the symptoms have become severe enough to cause real problems.

Summary

Businesses are being persuaded into seeing RFID as a panacea of inventory management and other issues. Whatever the truth of this, companies such as Ford and TNT are running successful RFID projects already, and many developers may be asked to take part in similar initiatives.

There are specific RFID issues - radio waves behave in unexpected ways in the presence of large amounts of metal or water, and you need to decide between passive tags (cheap) and active tags (more flexible), with batteries and a modicum of intelligence. And even cheap RFID tags are orders of magnitude more expensive than simple barcode labels.

Don't overlook the fact that a large RFID project is also a large database technology project and will have all the issues usually associated with an IT project of this size, as well as any specific to RFID. Don't let RFID hype blind you to the issues usually associated with implementing potentially disruptive technology.®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
Was ist das? Eine neue Suse Linux Enterprise? Ausgezeichnet!
Version 12 first major-number Suse release since 2009
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.