Generation 2 testing complete
The feasibility testing for the UHF Generation 2 RFID tag standard has
just been completed by EPCglobal, moving the organisation close to its
goal of ratification of the standard by the end of 2004. There are, however,
still several issues that need to be resolved before companies get the
chance to exploit it.
There are two main benefits from Generation 2. One is the availability
of Global Tags. Country-specific tags based on different frequencies would
make the Return on Investment (ROI) for RFID unattainable for global companies
that operate in multiple countries. These need a single standard for tags
to truly integrate RFID into their supply chain. The second benefit is
Multiple Read/Write capabilities. This will provide support for multiple
reads and writes to a tag, offering the important potential for tag reuse
and the chance to generate a significantly change in the economics of
RFID and the delivery of a better ROI.
But there are still problems to be resolved. Interference, for example
is still a problem as the specification operates in the UHF range, around
900MHz. This can lead to interference issues with the GSM/GPRS cellular
networks outside the United States, and Generation 2 gear must be tested
in real environments to understand how companies must work around the
interference. Another problem area concerns the Intellectual Property
Rights of Intermec, which holds several key patents related to the Generation
2 specification. Intermec suspended its Intellectual Property licensing
program for 60 days to allow for the testing to be completed. But suspension
is not long-term resolution, and this issue will need to be resolved before
vendors dare to start producing Generation 2 equipment for sale.
The specification should, however, allow companies to create a global
infrastructure for RFID and makes the ROI more easily attainable. There
is already a good deal of knowledge that has been built up by the coterie
of specification early adopters on dealing with interference and frequency
issues. This leaves Intermec's Intellectual Property Rights as the burning
issue still to be resolved, for without that what could otherwise be a
significant step forward will find itself stymied.