Sun Microsystems Inc is to launch an RFID-based tracking system designed to help enterprises get a grip on the whereabouts of its internal physical assets.
The system includes RFID products and integration services that enable the monitoring of an enterprise’s assets using RFID tags, readers and software.
The aptly named Sun RFID Industry Solution for Physical Asset Tracking keeps an inventory of exactly what assets they own and how they are used throughout their life cycles. It comprises a set of pre-tested RFID architectures, hardware and software from Sun and RFID vendors.
Included is Sun’s Java-based middleware, which interfaces and feeds RFID-collected data to back-end applications and can also be embedded onto readers to cut down on traffic on an enterprises’ network. Sun Java System RFID Software works on Solaris Operating and is available on Linux.
The system also includes Sun Java Enterprise System and includes support for Intermec and Intelleflex RFID readers, as well as the mobile asset management system from Applied Logistics Solutions.
The system works for assets not connected to an enterprises’ network, such as R&D equipment in a lab, wheelchairs in a hospital, and forklifts in a factory.
This should not be confused with asset management, which typically is used to maintain a depository of assets that complies with license usage and audit control. Rather, asset tracking would work with existing asset management software, said Julie Sarbacker, director RFID business unit at Sun.
The system is not designed for supply chain application, but rather an internal closed-loop environment.
Technically, you could have one system for both, if you could get your trading partners to agree with it, said Jim Clarke, Sun’s chief RFID architect. We’re trying to focus on a quick return on investment.
Clarke pointed out that because users would be tagging long-living assets, the cost of buying tags is relatively small. You get an ROI much quicker in this type of application, he said.
Benefits also come in the form of fewer replacement costs for lost assets, Sarbacker said.
The system was borne from Sun’s internal need and has been deployed at two Sun locations in California – the Sun Shared Lab Facility in Newark, which maintains more than 10,000 servers an computing devices in a 6,000-square-foot space, and the Sun Tradeshow Equipment Distribution Center in Milpitas, a 5,000-square-foot facility from which various sized shipments leave from several times a week.
Previously, at its Newark facility, Sun employed an outside firm to manually count its more than 10,000 assets, which took weeks and several million dollars.
By the time the inventory was done, there was a lot of errors because assets had been misplaced and miscounted… and conditions had changed over time, so some of the information was obsolete, Sarbacker said. Now we can do the same inventory in an hour and can do it weekly if we want. A non-trained worker, using a handheld RFID reader, now conducts that inventory read, she added.
Pricing for the system would vary; depending on a project’s size and the technologies chosen by a customer. For Sun’s Newark project, Sarbacker said a very rough deployment figure was a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
Sun’s internal projects used tags and readers from Symbol Technologies Corp and Intermec Technologies Corp. Its software does support hardware from various RFID vendors, however, and Sarbacker said Sun would help customers select hardware for their systems.
Sarbacker said Sun currently has customers evaluating the system, but declined names.
Sun claims its system is a first, but if there is the kind of demand the company touts then it likely won’t be long before it gets company in the market. Right now we haven’t seen anyone else come out with this type of solution, Sarbacker said.