Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Middleware for Existing Data Collection Systems

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Dr. Greg Wolffe, wolffe@gvsu.edu

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Two of the largest consumers of industrial products in the World, the US Department of Defense and Wal-Mart Stores, now require their suppliers to ship goods containing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in addition to the familiar barcode labels. This requirement has created the need within the industrial manufacturing and distribution industries for software that allows these concerns to quickly integrate RFID technology into their existing barcode-centric enterprise systems. We have designed and developed a middleware application that allows users of existing data collection systems to interact seamlessly with RFID tags.

A unique object-oriented C#.NET application was successfully created that sits between the RFID reader and the data collection system. Our application reads RFID Tags and interacts via the TCP/IP protocol with a legacy, commercially marketed data management system called Viewpoint CLASS. This is accomplished without the need for any custom programming of the existing data collection system. The developed application is fully configurable in that the user can specify the types of RFID tags that will be supported, the layout of the data packets that will be used to communicate with the existing system, the type of filtering that will occur when tags are read, as well as what a valid or invalid response from the back-end system looks like.

The application exhibits sub-second performance; it is designed to work well in an industrial environment where response time is a key factor in the success of a data collection system. Because the application runs at such a high speed, and an industrial-based user may not always be in a position to view the application display, a light pole with green and red lights has been interfaced to the system to provide visual feedback to the user indicating if the tags read are considered valid or invalid. The application has a fallback mode, referred to as Local mode, which allows for the continued collection of RFID tag information even when a connection to the data collection system cannot be established. The locally collected data is transparently uploaded to the data collection system once the connection has been restored

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