In this section we will look at the BizTalk RFID technology.
What is it?
BizTalk RFID is a technology specifically intended to work with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology implementations. These implementations involve having an item with an RFID tag attached to it and a device which is able to detect the RFID tag and then raise an event to indicate the device read the tag. The idea of this is that by hosting devices in given locations you can detect an approximate location for the item with the tag on it. An example of this would be if you were in a warehouse and all of the stock in the warehouse had an RFID tag attached to it. If items leaving the warehouse passed close enough to an RFID sensor when leaving the warehouse then you would be able to record each item as it left the warehouse. This is a simplistic example and you can create much more sophisticated solutions using RFID.
In the BizTalk platform there is a sub system called BizTalk RFID which is specifically intended to help you create RFID integration solutions. The main BizTalk RFID component is intended to help you to integrate with different RFID reader devices by abstracting the device driver specifics from the RFID read event processing. This abstraction should make it easier to implement solutions and allow vendors to make their devices easier to plug into the product.
BizTalk RFID also includes a reliable processing pipeline for the read events where a developer can inject custom steps to act upon the read event. An example of this might include checking if a read event is something important or if it can be discarded or publishing the event to external systems.
The below diagram shows what a typical usage of BizTalk RFID may look like:
In this example the product is moved and an RFID sensor/device detects the RFID tag attached to the product. The sensor publishes the read event to the BizTalk RFID gateway. The gateway has been configured by the administrator to include certain devices and other settings. The gateway processes any read events in a reliable fashion and executes any custom steps the developers have created for the processing pipeline. At the end of the pipeline the event is published somewhere which in this case is a SQL Database. The developer is able to create different publishing components so an event could be published to an application or an integration platform such as the core BizTalk Server product.
The BizTalk RFID component includes the following features:
- RFID Event processing engine
- Device Service Provider Interface
- Custom plugins
BizTalk RFID deals with two of the key challenges in RFID projects. The first is that it makes it easier to handle devices from different vendors by abstracting the device specifics from the event processing via the Device Service Provider Interface. The 2nd is the event processing engine which is reliable and easy to extend and supports processing multiple processes.
This takes away a lot of complexity and gets you well on the road to developing a solution rather than building infrastructure.
BizTalk RFID comes as part of a BizTalk product so if your a customer who already has BizTalk or has MSDN there are lots of cost benefits around licensing that are open to you.
One of the other strengths of BizTalk RFID is that if you also have BizTalk Server in your organisation then its a great option to combine the two together to implement application integration on the back of RFID processing.
I think that the biggest weakness of BizTalk RFID is that it has been around a while and is one of those technologies which doesn’t get a lot of marketing air time. There are some really good articles about it on MSDN and it looks like there are some great use cases and case studies but this lack of marketing focus means that a lot of people aren’t aware that its there.
The BizTalk RFID product requires a Windows Server infrastructure so that it can be installed and connected to RFID devices which it must be able to address on the network to receive their events.
BizTalk RFID can be installed on premise on a Windows Server. For high availability a fail over cluster can be setup.
BizTalk RFID also comes with a mobile device component which can be installed on mobile devices which can be used as hand held tag readers. These devices can read multiple tags and cache the reads while disconnected. When the device is connected to the network again the tag reads can be processed.
BizTalk RFID is included with a BizTalk Server license, this means if your an existing BizTalk customer then this is a great way to get started. It is also available via MSDN for development and test scenarios.
The following technologies are similar or have a relationship with:
- BizTalk Server
BizTalk Server is part of the overall BizTalk integration product of which BizTalk RFID is included. If you are developing RFID solutions then combining BizTalk Server and BizTalk RFID is a great way to implement full solutions.
- BizTalk RFID Mobile
BizTalk RFID Mobile is an extension to BizTalk RFID specifically to work with mobile RFID devices and ones which may be disconnected when reading tags.