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A set of tools and resources from IBM’s alphaWorks division is introducing developers and customers to RFID in bite sizes.

A testing environment and a kit to build radio-frequency identification capabilities into ISV applications will allow early adopters to move slowly and scale into what is still an emerging technology, IBM executives announced July 31.

Now available on alphaWorks alphaWorks and DeveloperWorks Web sites:

  • IBM’s RISE (RFID Integrated Solution Enablement), a graphical user interface allows customers and developers to simulate how an actual RFID solution would affect their operations;
  • ALE (Application Level Events) Preview for RFID, a tool that lets developers create applications that are ready to interact and respond to the events that take place within a given RFID system. ALE communicates between RFID devices and business process software;
  • RFID Device Development Kit, an educational toolkit that equips developers with the resources to understand how RFID technologies work, how to develop RFID-enabled applications, and best practices for implementing RFID solutions.

The tools will accelerate the learning curve and rise to an acceptable comfort level for developers and customers approaching RFID solutions, said Chris Spencer, Emerging Technologies Strategist for IBM alphaWorks, IBM’s education division for emerging technologies.

“These technologies sit in mission critical areas,” Spencer said. “You don’t want to experience any difficulties in an application… These tools are a way to experience what it is to write apps for RFID and do so in way that accelerates those skills.”

The tools will also improve familiarity with the technology for customers and assist a scaled approach to adoption, said Bill Hood, chief operating officer of Stratum Global, Chicago, a warehouse management system developer now incorporating RFID into solutions.

“This is as much an art as it is a science,” Hood said. “It’s not your typical sales cycle. We spent the last three years educating customers on the possibilities [of RFID] and how to consider it coming into their organization… This lets it get more involved in the education process.”

ALE aids both communities by enabling limited rollouts, to departments or divisions, in an enterprise, Hood said, allowing customers to get their feet wet and deploy RFID in a scaled way.

“It’s not flipping an enterprise on its side the way an ERP deployment is,” he said. Stratum was able to convince to perform a rolling deployment at defense contractor over the last four years at a cost of $750,000 instead of an estimated $5 million to $7 million for an instantaneous deployment.

“It allows you to deploy something you’re using,” he said. “I hate shelf ware.”