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Groups Seek RFID Tech Training

Trade groups CompTIA and AIM Global are proposing a certification program to address the shortage of skilled RFID professionals.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 02, 2004AIM Global, a trade association for automatic identification and data-collection technologies, and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a global IT trade organization, announced this week they will collaborate on an initiative to develop a certification program for RFID technology workers. The goal is to address what the organizations call a skills shortage within the RFID industry that will become an ever-increasing concern as RFID adoption grows and mandates directed toward retail suppliers and other end users widen.

Representatives from both groups cite anecdotal evidence of a skills shortage, based on what they've heard from their members and people involved in pilot trials. They say that demand for certification comes from system integrators and IT staff, who are competent with back-end programming work involved in an RFID technology installation but often lack the fundamental physics and RF knowledge necessary to work with readers, antennas and tags.

CompTIA's David Sommer
On Dec. 8 and 9, representatives from more than a dozen RFID manufacturers, distributors, system integrators, IT training companies and government agencies, as well as industry experts who might help develop the certification process, are meeting with AIM Global and CompTIA executives at CompTIA world headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., to discuss the RFID certification initiative. Topics of discussion for the meeting will include the business need for RFID skills development, how certification could ultimately help end users, and what the scope and structure of an industry-accepted RFID certification process would entail.

David Sommer, CompTIA's vice president of electronic commerce and lead for the RFID certification initiative, says the idea to develop a certification program came about when his association was approached by representatives from major manufacturers and distributors of RFID hardware and software and told they were interesting in helping develop a certification program.

"From the physics of the hardware installation to the challenges of integrating RFID-generated data with existing business processes, a broad base of expertise is required for successful implementation," says Sommer.

Dan Mullen, president of AIM Global, says his organization was also approached by some of its RFID member companies that wanted to see more education in RFID and also some sort of certification process.

"Our members are always pushing for more education, and it was just a matter of time before there would be a need for certification, which is really just a higher level of education," says Mullen. It's the end users, he adds, that will benefit most from an RFID certification program. "There is a bit of a gold-rush mentality out there right now with respect to RFID. If you're looking at using it, or are mandated to use it, how do you verify who out there has skills that are really valuable? Certification is a way to bring about a level playing field as far as skills are concerned."

"There are certain knowledge domains within RFID that we'd need to address," says Sommer, "such as the RF technology, interference, backscatter, and then all of the standards, and the whole applications side of the technology, the software."

Anyone who would be installing, customizing or maintaining an application that uses RFID would be a candidate for the certification training, says Sommer, whether he or she works for a system integrator, a VAR, directly for an RFID manufacturer or directly for an end user (such as an IT professional within a large retail chain or within a government agency).

Central to any certification process would be vendor neutrality, says Sommer, who also notes that CompTIA has developed 11 other vendor-neutral certification programs in the IT and security industries that grew out of similar needs to develop skills standards.

Sommer says one of the purposes of next week's meeting will be to initiate the development of a committee of member companies, called a cornerstone committee, that will play a leading role in the development of the certification program. Once this committee is formed, the names of its member companies will be announced.

CompTIA is funded partially by fees associated with certification training, as well as by membership fees and the products, services, events and publications that the trade organization offers.

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