Latest RFID tech good for telcos – ComReg

22 Jul 2004

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has identified radio frequency identification (RFID) as a potentially significant growth driver for the Irish telcommunications industry.

In a statement attached to a briefing note tracking developments in the technology, ComReg defined RFID systems as a new generation of barcode technologies that enable information, such as identification codes, to be accessed over the air without the need of direct contact or a direct line of sight.

“Recent technology developments in RFID manufacturing processes are bringing us to the point where low-cost RFID technology can be extended to far more applications, potentially generating large amounts of data and corresponding telecommunications traffic,” the statement noted.

ComReg chairperson John Doherty commented: “The widespread application of RFID technology could provide significant opportunities in the telecommunications industry. Some RFID systems will create large volumes of data that will need to be transported, managed and integrated with existing IT systems. We welcome the emergence of innovative new telecommunications products and services in Ireland to take advantage of the opportunities that RFID systems create.”

One of ComReg’s less publicised roles is that of raising awareness of new and emerging technologies. This work is carried out under its Forward-looking Programme (FLP), which monitors innovative technologies and analyses how they may impact on the future shape of the Irish telecoms market.

In 2003, a steering panel of senior external advisers, chaired by ComReg commissioner Isolde Goggin and including the chief scientist of Nortel Networks, Philip Hargrave, was formed to guide the FLP. Other members of the steering panel include Michael Donohoe, head of emerging technologies at Eircom, Mike Carr, director of enterprise venturing at BT Exact, and Tim Kelly, head of strategy and policy, International Telecommunications Union.

The briefing note document issued by ComReg introduces RFID technologies and identifies some of their many potential applications as well as market and regulatory issues, particularly relating to the global harmonisation of frequency spectrum for RFID systems to operate.

RFID tags cost 25 cents today when purchased in bulk, but in five or 10 years’ time the price is likely to fall to as low as one or two cents per tag, according to industry forecasts. This will make it practical to tag even relatively low-cost items.

RFID is beginning to enjoy usage internationally and could have major benefits amongst Irish enterprises, both indigenous and multinational. In the US, for example, Wal-Mart has insisted that its top 100 suppliers are RFID compliant by January 2005.

By Brian Skelly