Microsoft Dynamics NAV and RFID

RFID technology simply put will someday become just as universal as barcodes are today bringing fully automated inventory management, asset tracking, retail checkouts benefits for all of us as consumers, retailers, distributors, shippers, manufacturers, suppliers, shippers or any other entity in the entire product life-cycle.

In Dynamics NAV group, we started discussing how best to bring forward a RFID solution for our partners and customers quite some time ago. It was however always difficult to find enough resource in the group to justify significant investment compared to other competing priorities (delivering NAV 5.0, making progress on NAV 6.0, service pack…). However we simply could not ignore the importance of RFID.

In my early days with-in the group, I had naïvely assumed that RFID was only relevant to large retailers such as Walmart who could invest heavily for technology adoption in the early days. But then I saw the technology in action in the recently renovated Seattle public libraries, where I could check out a whole stack of books just by putting them at a small pad, I was a convert on its global adoption at all scales and sizes. Also I was reminded by my team member Stuart that RFID adoption will most likely follow the similar route to Bar Codes.

As industry big-wigs start mandating RFID tags from their partners on their inventory items, partners in turn will look for outsourcing RFID tags printing and stamping work to dedicated suppliers who will invest in RFID printing solutions. And thus every manufacturer, distributer from large to small will easily be able to outsource RFID labeling of their merchandise just as they did so for bar codes in the beginning creating a viable marketplace for RFID enabled tags and scanners in a very short span of time.

Now it was left for us to how to provide a solution in a timely manner that our partners and customers could benefit from. To begin with we chose Microsoft BizTalk RFID technology that provides a device independent platform for integrating various RFID scanners, printers and solutions. This technology platform coupled with power of Dynamics NAV gave us ample opportunity to build a showcase implementation.

We narrowed down scope of our efforts primarily based on available resources, time to market and partner considerations.  The end result is a white paper, coupled together with a sample implementation that helps our partners quickly get up to speed on Microsoft BizTalk RFID technology and build their own solutions using native extensibility and integration features of Dynamics NAV as they already know today. Note this sample itself is not a customer ready implementation, as it not only uses the sample RFID emulator device but also it uses a COM+ based events listener that is not ideal for production systems. Partners have already built numerous solutions using MSMQ or Microsoft SQL Server based integration solutions for Dynamics NAV and those will be better suited for production RFID systems.