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Get Started with RFID Development in Java : Page 2

Using RFID Anywhere, you can build a highly customized Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) application or service that meets your specific needs.


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RFID Anywhere Components
RFID Anywhere isn't a single technology, but rather a collection of components that work together to simplify development. This section provides an overview of the various components. Hardware Connectors installed in RFID Anywhere provide the interface to physical hardware devices. Each connector uses native, low-level hardware interfaces to communicate with a specific piece of hardware. Connectors expose configuration properties, send hardware commands, and receive data from these hardware devices. Each specific piece of hardware that RFID Anywhere supports has its own unique connector that can be installed in RFID Anywhere. Controllers expose the functionality necessary to support a specific family of devices such as RFID readers, bar code scanners, RFID printers, or sensors. The functionality exposed by a given controller is common to all devices in the family of hardware that the controller supports. For example, the RFID reader connector captures and delivers RFID tag events and exposes triggers to allow business logic to control the readers. Business logic running in RFID Anywhere interacts with controllers, allowing a single application to seamlessly aggregate and use data from multiple pieces of hardware.

The RFID Network Simulator takes the place of actual physical devices for developing and testing business logic. By simulating the a series of device events with a definable set of values, formats, and protocols, developers can check special cases and perform load testing without acquiring and installing physical RFID hardware. Using this simulation environment, organizations can perform hardware investigation and decision making in parallel with software and business logic development tasks. Custom Business Modules are edge-processing components written with the .NET platform. Business modules get built and deployed to RFID Anywhere and perform the following primary tasks:

  • Connecting to controllers to receive events such as RFID tag reads
  • Issuing read triggers to hardware to begin collecting information
  • Responding to hardware events and errors
  • Querying and updating secondary sources such as databases and other applications
  • Sending processed information to enterprise systems through messaging connectors
Report Engine MP provides a development model that allows developers and integrators to process raw RFID data by enabling the simple creation of XML reports based on the activity of tags from multiple protocols. These XML reports can then be fed into other enterprise systems by using RFID Anywhere's messaging connectors. While the ALE standard enables the generation of XML reports for tag activity, it is limited in that it can only generate these reports from Electronic Product Code (EPC) tags. RFID Anywhere's Report Engine MP addresses this by enabling the creation of XML reports based on tag activity for both EPC and International Standards Organization (ISO) tags. The Report Engine MP decodes the tags of various protocols for the creation of consolidated reports.


Application Level Events (ALE) Engine
RFID Anywhere includes an Application Level Events (ALE) engine to provide another means for developers and integrators to process raw RFID data. ALE is a standard defined by EPCGlobal, Inc. that specifies the simple creation of standard XML reports based on the tag activity of EPC tags. You can then feed these XML reports into other enterprise systems using RFID Anywhere's messaging connectors. Other ALE-driven applications can also define, subscribe to, and receive these XML reports through Web services.

 
Figure 1. ALE Cycles: The figure shows how a physical reader's read cycles map to application-level events and reports.
ALE exposes data in the form of periodic, XML-based, event cycle reports. An event cycle is simply a series of hardware read cycles; each event cycle message summarizes the tag activity during the read cycles that preceded it. The messages are the smallest unit of interaction between the ALE protocol and other applications.

Figure 1 illustrates how a physical reader's read cycles map to configured ALE event-cycles and to resulting reports that will be sent to and consumed by an enterprise application. The references to EPC1 through EPC5 represent 5 EPC tags that are read by the physical RFID hardware during each read cycle. When a report is generated and sent to an enterprise application over one of RFID Anywhere's messaging connectors, it is up to the application to add additional business value to the data contained in the report.

Understanding the RFID Anywhere ALE implementation
The ALE implementation in RFID Anywhere consists of several key components:

  • The hardware connectors, which communicate with the readers
  • The RFID ALE Protocol business module, which collects raw data from hardware controllers
  • The ALE Event Cycle connectors, which define and validate event cycle messages for the ALE business module
  • Messaging connectors, which deliver messages to enterprise applications for processing
RFID Anywhere also exposes ALE functionality over Web services.

Messaging Connectors
The messaging connectors included with RFID Anywhere abstract low-level aspects of messaging protocols such as TCP and SMTP and enable RFID Anywhere components to send processed information to enterprise systems or other components. RFID Anywhere includes a number of messaging connectors including File Messaging, MSMQ, QAnywhere, SMTP, TCP, UDP, and Web services. These connectors can be added and configured from the Administrator Console.

 
Figure 2. RFID Anywhere Component Relationships: The figure illustrates the relationships between the messaging connectors, enterprise applications and the RFID Anywhere components.
You can use the Administrator Console described in the next section to specify a list of messaging connectors through which to send data to define where reports or business module output should be sent. By doing this, business logic running in RFID Anywhere can communicate with a wide variety of enterprise applications.

Figure 2 points out the main components of the RFID Anywhere framework and the relationships between each. In particular, the figure illustrates the relationships between the messaging connectors, enterprise applications, and the RFID Anywhere components. Administrator Console
The RFID Anywhere Administrator Console is a Web-based administration tool that you can use to access the components of the RFID Anywhere system and perform the following tasks:

  • Start, edit, restart, stop, and remove instances of local services using the Services Manager
  • View and set host system properties and settings for specific services using the Properties Manager
  • Access the monitoring and provisioning functions of RFID Anywhere
  • Add and manage managed systems in an RFID Anywhere network
  • Add new instances of service types
  • Edit local security and domain security


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