The Challenges of Location Intelligence

By Hal Reid

Hal Editorial-Aug 2005 In this, the initial issue of Location Intelligence Magazine, we begin to explore a new understanding of how location technology meets the needs of enterprise computing to improve business process management.We see this as an expedition, which will be exciting, innovative and will extend to places we haven't yet been. While this exploration will be technical, it will also be enlightening and hopefully entertaining.We will move past the realm of the traditional concepts of place, and we want to give you insights of not just the where, but the ability to see location intelligence as geographic, temporal and virtual.

Certainly we will look at new and existing technologies, and some that we are now just beginning to understand how they fit into the location intelligence value chain such as location determining sensors like radio frequency identification (RFID).We will also investigate disparate technologies and concepts that, on the surface, may seem to have no relationship with location, but then we will show you how they can be adapted, adjusted and made part of location intelligence tools and methodology.

There will be new terms and definitions and we will all learn more as we develop a wider view of the world.

This issue of Location Intelligence begins a new era and I hope you will be as excited and interested as I am in becoming immersed in it.

Location Intelligence & Disparate Technologies
This month our theme is RFID.RFID is a great location intelligence launch topic.Why? Because, RFID is a disparate technology taking geographic, temporal and virtual locations (GTVL), mixing them with business intelligence (BI), database and RF technologies to provide adjunct support for systems of supply chain management.After all, data taken from the RFID readers has to go somewhere.

RFID embodies location intelligence in a way that while vast, is just really being explored.There are some incredible challenges here just to get it off the ground.For starters, there are issues of cost, competition with existing product scanning systems (bar codes), standards, range and even RF pollution.At the same time RFID is becoming as pervasive as the gizmo on our key chain to buy gas, the EZPASS® for tolls, and even retailers beginning to require their vendors to use RFID, such as Wal-Mart.

The promise of the technology is rich.For example, think about the potential for recording typical point of sale information at the retailer shelf level: "I've been purchased and am leaving with a customer, replenish me at this location".Even better, "Hello, I'm shelf #25, we are getting low here and I don't see anything in the back room, the supply chain or in the manufactures inventory, would you like me to go after another source?" That can get pretty scary.Now if only the movement of goods and services could be comparably automated.

Mixed Signals?
The promise has some downside as well.Consider a pallet full of products, all with RFID chips that are constantly polled by the reader. There will be myriad responses to filter (new term - temporal parsing of multiple data strings).What happens to all the chips embedded in the cardboard when the product is unboxed and the cardboard is recycled?

Even more basic, is the established cost threshold (by industry), of forty cents per chip, making cheap products non-starters except at the pallet level.Then again, 40 cents is fine for the gas pump gizmo for 40 cents worth is probably the value of what spilled when you moved the hose from the pump to your car.

But the promise is so great that these issues will be overcome.Imagine chips that can be written to on the fly, with a knowledge of where they were, or even effecting product upgrades that keeps inventory replenished.In the traditional technology sense, warehouses with their own GPS, reconciled with the outside world and the ability to read and locate the entire warehouse inventory.Add the temporal mode and you could know what was there and what will be there and minimize losses.

Ask the Question...Find out where
In local government, does every parcel get a chip and every survey marker as well? How about every fire hydrant, pipeline, valve or connector? Will we be able to re-map the entire city from our desktop by just reading the chips?

It is also fascinating to think about intelligent locations with their imbedded history and metadata, all available with just a reader.

I hope you will find Location Intelligence Magazine your source of information that provokes actionable thought and innovation.Because, the results of your thinking will be the metrics that define how successful we all are.

Published Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Written by Hal Reid

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