The need for experienced Systems Integrators
Sep 01, 2004
It is a curious fact that, although end users of RFID invariable prefer one stop shopping, major system integrators, let alone facilities managers, are few in number, particularly where large schemes and global support are called for. Thus with beer barrel management, there is little beyond Trenstar, For military applications, few can rival Savi Technology. For what was, at the time, the largest RFID order ever, the $1.6 billion contract for the London buses and trains, there was only one bidder. For the large EPC applications there is the same dearth of bidders, Of course, at item level, one cannot expect considerable experience from any organisation because nothing major has yet been done. Nonetheless, one would have thought that many of the world's major companies would have been announcing their intention to do this work, including the facilities management that will so often be needed. The truth is that many very large IT and other suppliers are expressing interest, but usually it is for some smaller part of the action, such as middleware or consultancy.
Late to the party
Perhaps some of them realise they are coming very late to the party and, at item level, the technical challenges are among the most difficult in the ICT industry. Certainly others, like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, wish to remain essentially software companies. Although Intel is initiating and managing collaboration between major retailers, it is clear that this is all aimed at shifting silicon, a daunting enough task, because its chips are very hard to find in RFID tags today. IBM could easily be a major systems integrator and facilities manager in RFID but its official statements sometimes give the impression that it will focus on narrower parts of the value chain for now. Yet it has a collaboration with Philips for major RFID schemes. How will this evolve?