Group ratifies next-generation RFID specs

A non-profit standards group has ratified a royalty-free standard that will help drive the commercialisation of radio frequency...

A non-profit standards group has ratified a royalty-free standard that will help drive the commercialisation of radio frequency identification (RFID) and the Electronic Product Code around the world, the group said.

EPCglobal said that its board of directors had ratified the second-generation Electronic Product Code (EPC) specification as an EPC standard.

The standard was developed through a collaborative process that involved more than 60 leading global companies that subscribe to EPCglobal, the group said.

The decision will allow suppliers to start making standards-based products, such as tags and readers, EPCglobal said. Products are expected to be available by the first half of 2005.

"The announcement is very important in that this particular standard is a huge step forward for RFID implementations," said Sue Hutchinson, director of product development for EPCglobal. "It provides a globally harmonised standard of UHF RFID primarily for supply chain applications."

At EPCglobal, Hutchinson said, RFID and supply chain do not just refer to the hardware components, such as tags and readers.

"It also includes all of the information system components that make it possible to use the data that's coming from the readers, combine it with other information system assets that companies may have as a way for them to share visibility information about goods moving through the supply chain," she said.

Hutchinson said UHF Gen 2 represents the first of several standards that the EPCglobal community is working on that will be coming out early during 2005. Others involve middleware, for information system and communication approaches between information systems.

"So we can talk about a system of standards that lets us all use this information and communicate about visibility in the supply chain," she said.

Products built to the new standard are expected to work with each other in any area of the world. EPCglobal said the UHF Generation 2 standard uses frequency and power in a way that complies with the major regulatory environments.

To better protect data stored on the tags and corresponding databases, products built to the standard will feature advanced encryption technology, password protection and authentication, EPCglobal said.

The standard is backed by companies including Wal-Mart Stores, Gillette and Albertson's, and is also supported by the US Department of Defense and the US Food and Drug Administration, EPCglobal said.

"The benefits for users and makers of EPC technologies based on the Gen 2 protocol should accrue quickly once tags are available in quantity," said a research advisory by The Yankee Group.

"If delivered as promised, Gen 2 will eliminate much of the risk presented by earlier protocols. Don't expect to see Gen 2 tags produced in volume until the second half of 2005."

Linda Rosencrance writes for Computerworld

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