Beyond Tags and Readers
RFID is a technology that tags items with electronic
transmitters containing a unique ID and other custom
information. The obvious advantage of RFID is that
you now know exactly where your goods are at any
given point in time and can develop processes to act
on this information. However, the amount of information
that will be generated by RFID infrastructure is on the
verge of exploding. RFID technology, while generating
an unprecedented amount of data, is only as valuable
as the resulting information and knowledge that can be
derived. The mere data is of little or no value.
There is an urgent need to address the issue of this data
avalanche and be able to intelligently transform RFID
data into useful information, and succinctly interact
with upstream systems such as Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) or supply chain software. This requires
the information architecture necessary to support the
data streaming in from this technology to provide solid
foundation to capture relevant information from the
RFID infrastructure. Also the information architecture
will enable the user to make sound business decisions
based on the real time information made available. This
information architecture will consists of an Intelligent
Edge Layer (IEL) and Business Activity Monitoring
(BAM) tool along with the existing systems in place.
By being able to pull together data from across the
organization, executives at all levels of the organization
expect the information they need to support their
decision-making on their desktops. IEL and BAM are
the keys to meeting this challenge, and hence these will
become vital IT components supporting organizational
decision-making processes. TCS will ensure that
their clients derive the best possible value from RFID
technology for optimizing their business needs.
Upstreaming RFID - Beyond Tags and Readers 1 TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES
About the Authors
T S Rangarajan
Head of RFID Solutions at TCS. Prior to this he was the
Retail Practice head of TCS based out of New York
Solutions Architect with RFID Solutions Practice
of TCS. He is actively involved in providing RFID
business solutions for various verticals. Anand holds a
Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication
Engineering and an MBA in Marketing and Finance.
Suraj Subramaniam S
Solutions Architect with RFID Solutions Practice of
TCS. He is also actively involved in providing RFID
business solutions for various verticals. Suraj holds a
Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication
Engineering and an MBA in Marketing and Finance.
Upstreaming RFID - Beyond Tags and Readers 1 TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 3
2. Data Overload 3
4. Beyond the ID 4
5. Paradigm Shift 4
6. Upstreaming RFID 7
7. TCS RFID Solutions 8
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One ﬁne day, for your shopping needs, you end up at a store dubbed as the future store. You ﬁnd the
supermarket more crowded than usual and as you decide to turn back, you see your colleague come out of
the store smiling. He tells you that he just had a new and wonderful shopping experience and urges you to
experience the same.
Now as you enter the store, you are given a smart cart with which you stroll the aisles, scan your merchandise
with an electronic reader and pick up your requirements. To your amazement you ﬁnd all the shelves fully
stocked. The smart cart generates your bill automatically on a click of a button and the same is charged to
your credit card. On your way out you do not stand in lines or see the personnel at the checkouts. You bag up
your goods and off you go. This is all done in 15 minutes. For you it was a wonderful shopping experience,
the retailer would say “you just experienced RFID in action”.
RFID is poised to help businesses reduce costs, ﬁne-tune inventory management, fortify theft detection,
and achieve new velocity and real-time visibility into business processes across an extended supply chain
of suppliers, partners, and customers. The scenario seems well set for users to experience the beneﬁts
of RFID technology. But there looms a major obstacle on the road to RFID nirvana. The adopters of this
technology are “ill-prepared” to handle the mammoth volumes of information that RFID will generate. Data-
intensive organizations across many industries are collecting terabytes of dynamic, detailed data on a daily
basis. This volume operating at item level is expected to be around 7 seven terabytes for Wal-Mart.
Today, one deals with read-only, serial-number, license-plate model technology with RFID. Read/write
technology for RFID has not yet made its foray. When that happens, it is going to increase the amount of
information that is going to be pumped through your enterprise.
Currently the technology adopters have huge volumes of data in their systems with little knowledge of how
to handle it. Organizations are drowning in data and will succeed to the extent that they are able to harness
it to make better, more informed decisions.
Let us consider an example to understand the signiﬁcance of the issues related to the huge volumes of data
generated by RFID technology.
Consider an average stock keeping unit SKU of 1.5 oz. soap bars that move from the manufacturer to a
Retailer Distribution Center (RDC). Assume that all the packaged soap bars are RFID tagged and each
carton used for shipment carries 72 such soap bars. On an average, 80 such cartons constitute a pallet and
an average lot of 30 pallets are moved to the RDC. This means that there are 172,800 unique RFID tags on
every lot shipped to the RDC. Let us assume that every single tag can be scanned, then that means there
is a need to scan and recognize 172,800 items individually.
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Fig.1. RFID Data Explosion
A RFID reader “polls” the pallet which is stationary and within the range of the reader, it takes multiple reads
of each tag. Such polling can result in about 30 read events per pallet. As each tag passes through multiple
readers at different locations within the warehouse, read events are registered. Collectively, it will be safe to
assume about 40 reads per pallet are registered within the warehouse. In such a scenario, the RFID reader
infrastructure generates an astronomical number of just over 6.9 million read events. And, this is only the
inventory for one SKU and in one warehouse. Suppose the warehouse caters to multiple SKUs, the data
generated by read events would be much higher than what the systems are capable of handling.
This data that is generated by the RFID network are IDs commonly of size 64 or 96 bits. This data by itself
is not valuable unless you can correlate the ID to other information. For example, when the RFID antenna at
your dock door registers the arrival of a new pallet you need to be able to correlate this receiving event of a
pallet and all the uniquely tagged cases to a purchase order, an invoice or an advanced shipment notice.
Processing these correlations on a centralized system could mean potential delays, communications
disruptions, and depending on the amount of data, can lead to congestion and breakdown of your network.
Beyond the ID
In addition to unique IDs, there is a whole new set of data that you will need be aware of and manage. You
may need to know when an item was read for the ﬁrst and the last time in your facility. You may also need to
know which reader and antenna processed the read. This is especially important when you are assessing
the inventory and would like to draw conclusions based on the antenna location.
Consider a warehouse with storage racks spread over the facility. Currently, it is not feasible to have an
antenna on every storage rack. Instead, the warehouse will have to be divided into individual sections and
have an RFID antenna installed for each section. When a product/case/pallet leaves a section, we can
assume that it has been moved with the intention of dispatching it. If the product/case/pallet is not read
again, at the dispatch dock, we can further assume that it has been left in a different spot or has been taken
out without proper authorization. Logic like this allows us to deﬁne and manage business rules based on
It becomes evident that an RFID network needs to handle a lot of different data attributes other than tagged
product information. So, an RFID solution will have to be speciﬁcally engineered to recognize and make
sense of new data attributes. What becomes readily apparent is that a new paradigm is needed to manage
the raw data generated by an RFID network.
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What does this new paradigm consists of?
● Intelligent Edge Layer (IEL)
● Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)
Intelligent Edge Layer
An Intelligent Edge Layer will be between your RFID hardware and your enterprise systems. IEL will be
software platforms speciﬁcally designed to manage RFID networks and handle the resulting streams of data
before they are passed on to interfacing systems. IEL ﬁlters redundant data and only passes information
along that is requested or constitutes a change of the situation.
An intelligent edge layer can be used to execute business rules relative to RFID data, and then send
relevant events to enterprise systems, such as triggering a query for a transactional record based on an item
or pallet ID and receive the right document back. This layer can orchestrate interfaces with multiple systems
through a variety of means such as Web Services and it can draw on more than one document to reconcile a
transaction. Thus, your IEL enables intelligent RFID data processing at the point of reconciliation, takes the
onus away from centralized systems and allows for immediate reactions to unplanned events before these
situations become more difﬁcult to resolve and costly to handle.
Your IEL will also enable you to:
● Conﬁgure your RFID network to handle different business scenarios that are speciﬁc to an item, a
location, and other criteria. This can be done by clearly deﬁning your various workﬂow scenarios.
● Recognize and make sense of new data attributes directly related to managing RFID solutions.
● Manage the historical data and provide the ﬂexibility to draw on the relevant data at any given point
● Handle exceptional conditions such as wrong shipments, wrong location, missing items, damaged
items or discrepancies between documents and generate actionable alerts and notiﬁcations.
To make sound business decisions, an organization must establish a solid data foundation. This foundation
must combine both current and historical data values from operational systems in order to identify trends
and predict future outcomes. Intelligent Edge Layer is the key to pulling this data together and delivering an
information infrastructure that will meet strategic business initiatives.
Business Activity Monitoring
As more businesses strive for the ideal of a real-time enterprise, there is growing interest in reducing the
latency of Business Intelligence (BI) delivery. Making faster decisions based on more real-time information
can beneﬁt enterprises seeking faster and more-efﬁcient operational processes.
Business activity monitoring is a new style of BI application that harnesses real-time events in the context of
business operations and is some times referred to as an “Operational BI”. In this case, the real time events
are triggered by the inﬂow of RFID data from the IEL.
Using the real time RFID information with BAM tools built on ERP, BI, Business Process Management
(BPM), and enterprise application integration (EAI) software, data is presented in real-time through a portal
or dashboard. The dashboards in this case have drill-down or actionable control functions, so users can not
only monitor but also respond to and control the processes under watch.
To get an idea of how BAM tools work, let us look at a basic model. A basic BAM tool installed on an
enterprise’s IT layer is shown in ﬁgure 2. This enterprise has a bunch of applications that play critical roles
in its business transactions, Purchase Order (PO) entry system, writing Electronic Product Code (EPC)
information into the case tags, pallet building, shrink wrap processing, and EDI gateway.
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Fig.2. Basic BAM Model
The enterprise applications communicate by sending messages or events across the middleware layer.
For example, a workﬂow engine starts on receipt of a PO in the system. This triggers the application which
writes the EPC information into the RFID tag. This will in turn send a message to initiate the pallet building
application. Each message triggers an application to perform a step in processing the order. This sequence
continues till the ASN information of the shipment is sent to the customer through the EDI gateway.
Consider that the enterprise installs a BAM tool to help track its transactions. The arrows indicate ﬂows of
events added by the BAM tool’s components. This BAM tool reads events from the applications but does
not interfere with the communication between applications. It feeds the events to activity monitors installed
to watch each application. Event feeds are implemented in many different ways. The monitors use the
events to measure certain metrics or “statuses” which are all displayed on the dashboard in nice colors.
When statuses reach a critical state, the colours change and alert events are created. This enables real time
information available from the RFID infrastructure that can be utilised to make sound business decisions.
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Effective use of RFID infrastructure can make or break a company.
By being able to pull together data from across the organization, executives at all levels of the organization
expect the information they need to support their decision-making on their desktops. IEL and BAM are the
keys to meeting this challenge, and hence these will become vital IT components supporting organizational
With RFID infrastructure in place in the downstream, along with efﬁcient IEL & BAM in the upstream,
companies can harness information from terabytes of dynamic and detailed data. Using this information in
real time to recover lost revenues, improve risk management, reduce fraud, and compress decision cycles,
companies can further strengthen customer relationships and even enable new, previously impossible
Over the years TCS has ensured that their clients derive the best possible value from new technologies for
optimizing their business needs. In this regard, TCS offers RFID solutions which will enable companies to
gain visibility into their business, acquire and retain proﬁtable customers, reduce costs, optimize the supply
chain, increase productivity, and improve ﬁnancial performance.
With TCS RFID Solutions, years of experience in business practices comes hand in hand with RFID technology
expertise, helping companies understand and use RFID data for business applications. Combined with the
expertise of our alliance partners (Oracle, Sun, Texas Instruments, and Hitachi) it gives us the conﬁdence to
deliver RFID based supply chain solutions for your needs.
TCS RFID solutions will provide simplicity for the user, effortless scalability and the lowest TCO. Together,
these beneﬁts offer powerful value to organizations. Imagine the possibilities for your business—orders of
magnitude performance improvements, for half the cost.
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TCS RFID Solutions
The TCS RFID solutions group focuses on creating, and delivering RFID based solutions to TCS clients.
These solutions build upon TCS domain experience, enterprise applications expertise and systems integration
capability with skills and assets in core RFID technology (hardware/sensing technology) and middleware.
Taking a business and processes perspective, TCS focuses on using technology for process improvements
and elimination of customer’s pain areas.
Leverage domain expertise to focus on realizable business value
TCS has vast experience with the leading organizations of the world across industries. The domain knowledge
thus gained helps TCS focus on realizable business value by ﬁne-tuning the solutions to the client’s stated
and implicit business needs.
Enterprise applications expertise
TCS has extensive experience and expertise in enterprise applications, supply chain management and
execution and enterprise assets management. This provides us with the necessary grounding to work with
application vendors and our clients in order to craft solutions addressing business needs and integrating
seamlessly with the existing applications deployed in the client’s organization.
TCS has struck alliances with leading technology vendors (Hitachi, EMS, TI) and the world’s leading
middleware and application vendors that enables us to work with the latest technology. TCS is a member of
EPC global and actively participates in the development of hardware and software standards.
Agility and higher productivity through reusable tools and assets
TCS has developed solution frameworks, approach guidelines, application prototypes and reusable
components. These assets enable TCS to deliver with greater agility and ﬂexibility.
RFID technology expertise
TCS invested early in RFID technology by setting up an RFID centre of excellence and a RFID lab. This
has helped develop extensive in-house expertise in the areas of RF engineering, sensing system design,
edge-ware/middleware deployment and application integration. It also gives us the capability to rapidly set
up project teams and deliver to expectations.
TCS RFID Solutions has the capabilities to help you along your RFID discovery and implementation path.
From immediate short term RFID solution development to long term implementation strategies,
TCS RFID Solutions can help you derive true value from RFID.
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