Second-generation RFID
on its way

12 Apr 2005

The present generation of RFID — beset by slow rollout strategies, scaremongering over consumer privacy and varying software and equipment standards — will soon give way to a second generation of RFID that will boast unified global standards and better performance, according to Gartner.

With the creation of second-generation RFID equipment currently under way, Gartner is advising users of the technology — namely companies that rely heavily on warehousing, logistics and supply chain management — to begin to make the transition from tactical to strategic equipment purchases.

RFID is being hailed as the successor to the barcode, offering warehouse owners and logistics planners greater control over and instant wireless access to vital information such as the lifecycle or exact geographic of a product. The technology is being embraced by business giants such as Wal-Mart and Gillette that want to ensure greater security and better visibility over their products and supply chains. However, such capabilities have raised the hackles of consumer rights groups that fear the privacy rights of citizens could be infringed.

In recent weeks, Intermec, Metro Group and Philips jointly announced that they have produced and tested engineering samples of an RFID chip that complies with EPCGlobal’s ultra high frequency (UHF) electronic product code class one generation two standard and with International Standards Organisation specifications. At the same time Intermec demonstrated an Intellitag Gen2 smart label containing a second-generation chip that was read by its IF5 reader (that is used in Metro’s infrastructure).

As well as this, Impinj announced the release of GrandPrix, an RFID reader and tag system that conforms to the EPCGlobal second-generation standard.

These announcements of the availability of second-generation equipment, which Gartner believes will be followed shortly by many more, represent a positive development for enterprises seeking to adopt this advanced UHF RFID technology.

Gartner analyst Jeff Woods said: “The market is now moving toward true globally unified standards for UHF RFID. The capabilities of second-generation technology are largely comparable to those of the current generation of products, but they offer incrementally improved performance in all areas. Enterprises will not be able to upgrade immediately to second-generation products, however, because only engineering samples are currently available. The substantial technical differences from first generation technology will radically change the positions of the vendors in this market and Gartner believes that some of these vendors may fail to make the transition to second-generation technology.”

Woods said enterprises considering generation migrations must watch forthcoming announcements carefully to address a number of important issues such as the likely failure of upgrades, concerns about whether new readers will infringe on the intellectual property rights of other vendors, the total cost of labels and the need for read/write capabilities on the reader equipment.

In terms of what enterprises should be doing right now, Woods recommends businesses plan for general availability of second-generation equipment in the third quarter of 2005 and begin evaluating hardware vendors strategically, rather than seeking short term or interim fixes.

By John Kennedy