OAT Systems was one of the first software companies to offer RFID middleware. The company was founded in 2001 by Sanjay Sarma, their Chief Scientist, and Prasad Putta, responsible for business and technical strategic partnerships. Sarma co-founded MIT's Auto-ID Centre and has served as its Chairman of Research. OAT's headquarters are in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. Over December 2007 and January 2008, I had 2 briefing sessions with Paul Cataldo, Vice President of Marketing, and Dr. Venkat Krishnamurthy, Chief Technology Officer, to get a better understanding of their product portfolio.
The goal of most RFID deployments is to integrate data from multiple facilities or across trading partners to provide a clear view of a business's operations, inventory and asset movements. Therefore the key to being successful in translating the real-time world of RFID to the business world of ERP is a successful RFID middleware product. This has to be easy to use as well as having a flexible architecture allowing cost effective implementation of the software. Once you have this foundation then you can exploit the additional data that is generated by RFID.
So what does OAT Systems offer? The OAT Foundation Suite consists of the following products:
OATenterprise: OATenterprise provides centralised data management for analytics and visibility across the enterprise. In addition, it enables organisations to centrally manage, monitor, configure and provision business logic and enterprise RFID infrastructures. With this capability, users can provision business logic directly on edge devices such as readers and controllers.
- OATxpress: OATxpress is the runtime part of OAT Foundation Suite and supports RFID data management and real-time alerts for a single edge unit. It provides dozens of best practice scenarios for RFID-centric processes such as Tag Commissioning, Pallet Building, Shipment Verification and Receiving. OATxpress manages the issue of globally unique EPCs to products in compliance with EPCglobal standards, including support for SGTIN, SSCC, and DoD data formats. As an EPCglobal Capture application, OATxpress provides business context for RFID data and integration into existing systems and processes.
OATdesigner: OATdesigner includes a graphical tool which allows users to modify and create new business scenarios. It creates the required rfBPEL1 automatically, eliminating the need to enter code manually. It also contains a library of rfPrimitives. The services in the tool are accessed through a graphical user interface. Finally there is a software development kit (SDK) that provides documentation, examples and tools to support the creation of rfBPEL elements.
OATdevice manager: OATdevice manager manages large-scale and dense device deployment scenarios, including non-RFID devices for alerts and exception handling. All devices being used in a solution are defined and maintained through its maintenance services. Other services are provided to monitor and improve the performance and operation of the device under its control. Devices supported include: all UHF Gen 2 Readers; a number of HF Readers and RFID Printers; Cisco Devices; WiFI Tags; Programme Logic Controllers (PLCs); and devices that support the OPC interface.
Also part of the OAT Foundation Suite is OATaxiom, which automates the process of cleaning, monitoring and analysing RFID data, while providing an analytics platform with pre-defined reports. It has a pre-built analytic cube using RFID-specific metadata elements.
On top of this OAT Systems delivers pre-configured application solutions that leverage its middleware. For example in the retailing sector, they have:
- Item-Level Availability: this is concerned with reducing stock outs and markdowns and thereby increasing customer satisfaction;
- Real-Time Promotion Execution: this is concerned with ensuring that promotions happen at the right time, with the right product, and in the right place.
- Perishable Goods Management: this is concerned with reducing shrinkage, preventing markdowns and prolonging shelf life.
- Out-of-Stock Analysis and Prevention: this is concerned with eliminating phantom inventory and empty shelves.
- Reusable Asset Tracking: for tracking order management and distribution from facility to facility.
Like the above retailing solutions the following consumer product goods solutions have been developed based on OAT Systems' experience of implementation. The solutions include two of the retail solutions:
Out-of-Stock Analysis and Prevention
Real-Time Promotion Execution
Other CPG solutions are:
tag@source: automated inline tagging solution.
Mobile Tag: this is a portable solution for printing EPC tags at remote facilities, such as those of contract manufacturers, enabling them to apply the tags before shipping displays to individual stores.
Asset Tracking: this is a real-time traffic control system that monitors pallets, dollies, and shipping containers as they move through the supply chain and reporting arrivals and spotting deviations.
OAT Systems also offers solutions for Industrial Manufacturers that, similar to the above solutions, have been developed and refined based on OAT Systems' experience of implementation in this sector. The tag@source and Asset Tracking solutions are available for industrial manufacturers. A final solution is:
Work-in-Process: in this solution a complete record of components and assemblies in terms of EPC data is collected as the items move through production stages and is linked with data from testing and quality control systems to provide a detailed, auditable history of manufacturing activity.
OAT Systems has come a long way since 2004 and their first analyst review which highlighted some issues around enterprise-class integration and data management capabilities. Those issues have been solved and OAT Systems has used their experience of implementation to enhance the basic functions of RFID middleware so that it is easier to implement through the use of its preconfigured Use Cases and, in addition, the architecture topology for implementation is flexible so that the software can be implemented on a great variety of alternatives. On top of this OAT Systems is now delivering pre-configured application solutions that leverage its middleware.
Bloor sees OAT Systems as one of the scene-setters of the RFID Middleware market and therefore should be one of the first names on a selection list.
rfBPEL is an XML-based process-definition language. It has been developed over several years and is a distillation of best practices, OAT has learned from its RFID deployment experience.