Integrators see opportunities, challenges for RFID

Between 2005 and 2007, spending on radio frequency identification technology integration will outpace spending on RFID software and application development, according to a recent survey by BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va.

"The next 24 months will be key for this industry," said Nicholas Evans, BearingPoint's global lead for emerging technology. Evans spoke today in Washington on a panel of government integrators held by the Information Technology Association of America.

Panel members agreed that RFID technology itself will not be the primary obstacle to adopting the systems that automatically track supplies, shipping containers and other goods through a logistics chain. Handling data will be.

"You're going to have terabytes of data coming at you," said Nicholas Tsougas, senior functional analyst at SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va. "You have to find ways to filter it and pass it along to the right systems."

RFID readers that monitor tags collect a wealth of unnecessary information that back-end systems must sort through. Tsougas said about 75 percent of the data collected by the Defense Department's RFID systems is useless, "and that's a conservative estimate."

SRA is working with the Defense Department to formulate its policy for the use of passive RFID tags. By Tsougas' estimates, the department has about 700 logistics systems that need to get the correct RFID information in the correct format.

"Database schema will have to change," said Ajit Kapoor, director of IT architectures at Lockheed Martin Corp., a problem that RFID proponents tend to overlook. When databases need to be rewritten, RFID adopters will know how good RFID standards really are and how well they work with technology that is already in place, Kapoor said.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is conducting several internal RFID pilots to try and overcome the technology's challenges before presenting solutions to government customers, Kapoor said.

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