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Efforts to Aid Adoption of ISO 18000-6C RFID for Toll Collection Move Forward

OmniAir Certification Services, on behalf of the 6C Toll Operators Committee, has already certified several models of tags and readers.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 18, 2012A coalition known as the 6C Toll Operators Committee (6CTOC) is pushing ahead in its efforts to promote a nationwide standard for the use of passive ISO 18000-6C ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tags for the purpose of toll collection. Four U.S. tolling agencies that have already adopted the technology formed the 6CTOC in 2011: Georgia's State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA), the Denver area's E-470 Public Highway Authority, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

In 2010, UDOT may have become the first U.S. toll agency to adopt the use of ISO 18000-6C readers and tags, which are attached to vehicles (see RFID Puts Salt Lake City Drivers in the Fast Lane). Tolling authorities, however, have generally employed proprietary RFID systems to collect tolls. For example, the E-ZPass system, used by 25 agencies spread across 14 northeastern states that constitute the E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG), have adopted 915 MHz active tags employing a proprietary air-interface protocol. Those agencies issue tags manufactured by Kapsch TrafficCom Inc. (formerly Mark IV Industries Corp.'s IVHS Division).

E-ZPass tags and readers, however, are incompatible with the electronic toll-collection systems used within other states. For example, Florida's SunPass and Epass employ the eGo Plus passive UHF tag from TransCore (the eGo tag uses a proprietary variant of the ISO 18000-6B standard). California's FasTrak uses passive 915 MHz UHF 18000-6B-based tags from TransCore and 3M. The Kansas Turnpike Authority switched to the eGo Plus for its K-Tag in 2009. Oklahoma's Pikepass, which has begun phasing out TransCore's Allegro battery-powered transponders that it adopted in 2001, is switching to eGo Plus RFID stickers by end of this year. And Texas' TxTag utilizes at least two types of transponders manufactured by TransCore: its legacy hard case AT5100 passive UHF transponder and the newer eGo Plus sticker.

The different types of transponders do not interoperate, according to Tim McGuckin, the executive director of OmniAir Consortium Inc. and OmniAir Certification Services (OCS), nonprofit standards organizations that the 6C Toll Operators Committee has employed to provide 6C testing and certification services. The OmniAir Consortium was established in January 2004 by McGuckin, as well as by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Bridges & Tunnels, the E-470 Public Highway Authority, TransCore, the Texas Turnpike Division (TXDOT) and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, to enable the deployment of interoperable advanced transportation technologies and applications through the member-defined OmniAir Certification Program. At present, there are approximately 25 members representing suppliers, systems integrators and operators from the toll industry, including P.J. Wilkins, E-ZPass IAG's executive director.

Although the 6B technology could be interoperable, McGuckin says, vendors (currently only TransCore and 3M offer 6B tags) sometimes make changes to the technology, making the toll-collection solutions they sell proprietary. This is the type of modifications that the group is trying to avoid.

"Historically," McGuckin states, "the tolling industry has bought proprietary RFID technology, because tolling systems grew organically in different regions." One system may be installed for a specific bridge, while another could be used within a neighboring state or an urban area. The problem with such isolated systems, however, is that a toll agency may be locked into a single vendor as its needs change or expand, and one agency's solution may not be interoperable with another. Furthermore, a driver might require a separate tag for each system if he or she passes through several tolling areas. To address this problem, TransCore launched its eZGo Anywhere transponders, which are interoperable with the E-ZPass system, as well as most toll-collection systems that utilize the passive technology, in 2008. While some companies have adopted the eZGo Anywhere tag for vehicles in their fleet (see Avis Budget Group Plans to Put Interoperable Toll Transponders on the Road), no tolling agency has adopted the eZGo Anywhere transponder to date. (TransCore has declined to comment regarding its technology, or about any 6C plans, for this story.)

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