Microsoft has added mobile support to its collection of RFID technologies centred on its BizTalk Server 2006.

The company released a new beta of BizTalk RFID Mobile, which runs on top of Windows CE 5.0 and Windows Mobile 5.0, saying it would become the foundation for mobile applications designed to collect data via RFID tags.

The beta is an extension of an existing private beta and is being expanded to include more users. A public beta will come before the software's ship date, which is scheduled between 1 October and 31 December, 2008, according to Microsoft.

Last September, Microsoft released BizTalk Server 2006 R2, which included RFID support for fixed data collection points that sit in one location and pick up signals within a certain range.

Now developers of handheld and other form factors can build RFID collection into mobile devices that collect data and push it back to the BizTalk Server.

Microsoft's goal is to feed RFID data into other systems, including business intelligence and workflow, using BizTalk as a collection and distribution hub within corporate infrastructure.

"As you look at RFID, you see demand among end-users for mobile application support," says Michael Liard, research director for RFID and contactless at ABI Research. "Microsoft is looking to fill that void and enable new types of applications to be developed. It is a natural evolution of the BizTalk product line."

With the mobile platform, users would combine the RFID data collection with some other application, or set of instructions, running on the device. The system could be a track and trace application that checks inventory as it moves along a supply chain to not only verify the shipment has not lost any boxes, but also to validate the contents of the boxes are delivered to the correct recipient.

"The idea was that a lot of RFID data were sitting out on these little silos and we wanted to find a way to bring all that back together so it could be useful," says Steve Sloan, lead product manager for the connected systems division at Microsoft. "We wanted to simplify that process and this is the first step in making that happen."

Sloan says Microsoft is also hooking RFID mobile into its management platform by allowing System Center Operations Manager to centrally manage mobile devices. Users also can manage devices locally or remotely.

In addition to RFID Mobile, Microsoft also unveiled BizTalk RFID Standards Pack for integrating RFID with Electronic Product Code standards, including Tag Data Translator and Low Level Reader Protocol standards.