Global standard on
RFID agreed


17 Feb 2005

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A new global standard governing the transmission of data between radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and RFID readers was announced yesterday at a conference in Brussels organised by the GS1 Forum, a new body responsible for driving standards and uptake of barcodes, RFID and other intelligent electronic product coding systems.

The Gen 2 Air Inferface Protocol is a specification that relates to the way readers and tags communicate. It is a revised version of the prototype Gen 1 standard on which all the early RFID pilots have been based. “Gen 2 has two main advantages over Gen 1. Its performance in terms of speed is better and it takes into account the recent realignment of radio frequency bands around the world so that it works just as well in Europe as it does in North America, whereas Gen 1 worked better in North America,” Dick Cantwell, vice-president of Gillette and RFID pioneer, told siliconrepublic.com.

Attended by top executives of global retailers and consumer goods companies including Ahold, Carrefour, Tesco, Unilever, P&G, Kraft, Metro, Nestle and Wallmart, the conference was a mix of technical breakout sessions about the progress that had been made in devising new technologies and standards that underpin RFID, and business discussions about the actions needed to drive higher levels of RFID adoption across all industries and geographies.

The development of the Gen 2 specification is only one small part of the technological jigsaw that will be needed if RFID is to become a commercial success. Speaking at the conference, Chris Adcock, chairman of EPC Global, a GS1 subsidiary that develops new technologies and standards, estimated that many more standards would needed in order to built the necessary RFID infrastructure. “2005 will be the year of the network. We how have Gen 2 protocol but we have 12-15 areas in which we need standards so that a network can be created that is built on global protocols,” he asserted.

Comprising 101 national organisations representing 1.1 million firms, from multinationals to SMEs, GS1 was formed when EAN International and the Uniform Code Council – two separate standards bodies for electronic product coding – came together to create a single worldwide standard for RFID and barcodes. Formerly launching the new organisation yesterday, CEO Miguel Lopera, described the development of GS1 standards and systems as “key pillars for global commerce” and said their universal acceptance would have major benefits for society. “This is about transparency and trust – providing the information needed to effortlessly manage inventories, replenish stocks and better serve consumers. We need to eliminate the inefficiencies of the supply chain that add unnecessary cost to the final price of products.”

Lopera said there were major benefits associated with RFID. In the foods safety area, RFID allows food products to be traced from the farm to plate. Traceability is also an important weapon in the fight against the theft or counterfeiting of drugs and high-value consumers products. Gillette, for example, recently signaled the theft and counterfeit of Mach 3 razors as a significant problem. Lopera also felt RFID could help cut costly out of stocks on supermarkets shelves, increase the amount of product information for consumers, improve supply chain efficiency due to error reduction and assist governments to implement new legislation in areas such as food and bioterrorism.

By Brian Skelly