It’s Here! Industry’s First Read-to-Cloud RFID API Now Available for Download

Zebra Data Services for RFID (finally) makes it financially and technically feasible for small and large enterprises to extract actionable intelligence from raw RFID-derived data.

A retali store associate uses a Zebra handheld mobile computer with RFD40 sled to read RFID tagged inventory
by Nathan Clevenger
July 26, 2021

In September 2020, I wrote about how the current complexity and price of RFID data aggregation, analysis and distribution to the operational edge prevents companies of all sizes from understanding the specific actions that can be taken to either fix issues or minimize/maximize the impact of certain business trends.  

Given that anyone in the business of producing, storing, moving, managing or selling goods needs to know what actions people are taking and the status of inventory assets and equipment at all times – and service providers, such as hospitals, utilities and energy companies, need to be able to locate people and equipment in an instant – we have to find a way to bring down the cost of operational visibility. We also have to prevent that cost from scaling up as organizations scale their IoT architectures and increase utilization of RFID for track and trace purposes.  

But, as I said before, the only way to do that is to move away from the use of on-premise servers and middleware and move data captured by RFID readers “on the ground” into the cloud.

That is why Zebra teamed up with GS1 and other members of a working group months ago to collaboratively develop the EPCIS 2.0 standard that should be ratified soon, as I mentioned in my last blog post.

It is also why Zebra decided to simultaneously develop the industry’s first unified read-to-cloud RFID application programming interface (API) – which is not something that I previously disclosed.

(Surprise!)

We wanted to abstract the physical six-figure RFID infrastructure that makes RFID a non-starter in smaller operating environments such as pharmacies, retail storefronts and quick-service restaurants (QSR) and condense it into just two components: the reader and the cloud. We knew that if we could help customers place this data in a centralized location such as the cloud versus an on-premise system, they could enable users across their entire organization and supply chain to view, interpret and act upon critical metrics.

So, we got to work and here we are: making RFID attainable for companies of all sizes by delivering a full-featured RFID experience via the cloud for a fraction of the cost of a full-fledged on-premise deployment.

Introducing Zebra Data Services for RFID…

This new Zebra Data Services for RFID application programming interface (API), which was known as Cloud Connect during the development and beta testing phases, leverages the Zebra Savanna™ platform to give you full use of the connectivity, data handling and analytics capabilities built directly into your RFID readers and the cloud. You no longer need to invest in complex and expensive on-premise infrastructure to gain end-to-end visibility into your operations, track inventory, streamline workflows and create efficiencies. In fact, the cloud-based structure of the Zebra Data Services for RFID offering enables you to deploy it in both large facilities and smaller operating environments, such as branch and franchise locations, where RFID track and trace simply wasn’t feasible before.

Why We Developed Zebra Data Services for RFID and Why We Think It Will Make an Immediate – and Powerful – Impact on Your Business

At the most fundamental level, we want to make it both financially and technically feasible for even the smallest of businesses to become truly intelligent “enterprises.” Capturing the millions of little “events” that are occurring across your operations and being able to wrap any sort of meaningful business context around those events are both significant challenges given the sheer number of devices capturing data day in and day out. We want you to be able to create, access and act upon a single source of data truth – no matter how many information sources are plugged into your IT architecture and without having to install any servers on premise.

So, our mission with this solution is to enable you to distill the “who, what, when, where and why” from your many disparate data systems with just a few lines of code.

Mission accomplished!

Literally within minutes, you or one of the world’s 50 million coders who support your business can now build or optimize the software applications your workers need to see, analyze and now, effectually act on the data that’s being captured by your Zebra Internet of Things (IoT) and edge devices.

Zebra Data Services for RFID…

  • enables RFID readers with native cloud access to transmit tag read events through on-reader filtering and modes for custom event information. In turn, you only receive information that directly helps your workforce, and your workers only see the data that matters to them.
  • breaks down data silos by making both raw data and detailed analytics available to all in a centralized manner via the cloud.
  • stores all RFID data transmitted to the cloud in a decoded GS1 format in the Zebra Savanna cloud for historical views and advanced analytics. This eliminates bottlenecks that are common with on-premise systems and makes it almost effortless to perform operational analytics and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • alerts stakeholders to key action items such as addressing out-of-place or out-of-stock inventory or items stalled on the production line.
  • analyzes tag reads with simple API calls by resource, location and time.
  • allows you to remotely setup, receive alerts and monitor the functionality and health of RFID readers via the cloud. You will receive actionable intelligence on device health, inventory tracking and more.

“Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?” you might be wondering.

To be honest, the idea to harness the power of RFID via cloud technologies seems like a simple one. We’re a little surprised it took us so long to see the possibility of a read-to-cloud API such as this, and we’re even more surprised that no one else thought of it first. But we’re appreciative to those working on the GS1 EPCIS 2.0 update for the inspiration and thrilled to be able to be the first to bring this capability to our customers and developer community. Anything we can do to give you a competitive edge, and help you cut costs in the process, is deemed a win in our books!

As our Chief Technology Officer Tom Bianculli explained quite elegantly in this podcast, Zebra is continuously innovating because you – our customers, partners and software developer community – need us to innovate. You need to be able to increase your operational agility, so we innovate with agility. We think outside the box so that you can see what’s happening both inside and outside your four walls at all times.

The Bottom Line

You no longer have to be a passive observer of your operations. With Zebra Data Services for RFID, you can actively orchestrate your workflows – and for a fraction of the cost that it previously required to install, provision, secure and maintain on-premise servers and middleware for RFID. 

Your front-line workers can gain the insights needed to mitigate errors as they start to move faster to keep up with demand. And you will be able to make more informed decisions when evaluating how best to reduce risks, increase efficiency, improve margins and boost both employee and customer satisfaction levels. The best part is that you’ll be able to do all of this without having to make the $100k+ upfront investment in on-premise RFID servers and middleware!

If you want to learn more about how Zebra Data Services for RFID can be leveraged by your organization or developers, you can check out the Zebra Developer website. You can also contact us here.

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Nathan Clevenger
Nathan Clevenger is currently the Director of Portfolio Management in the Enterprise Software business unit at Zebra where he leads the roadmap for the Savanna Data ServicesTM Platform.
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