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EPCglobal Sets Up New Working Groups

The hardware action group has assigned teams to develop specifications for Class 2 tags, evaluate conformance testing for tags and readers based on the Gen 2 standard and tackle other issues.
By Mark Roberti
Tags: Standards
Mar 03, 2005The EPCglobal's Hardware Action Group (HAG) met at IBM's office in Nice, France, in mid-February and established several new working groups to deal with a number of issues, including the eventual creation of a Class 2 EPC tag.

The Auto-ID Center, which originally developed the Electronic Product Code and Class 1 protocol, proposed five classes of tags, each with greater functionality than the class just below it. Class 2 tags were expected to be read-write, have more memory than Class 1 tags, and support encryption of data on the tag.

Sue Hutchinson
There is some debate within the HAG about what the defining characteristics of Class 2 should be. Some members feel that additional memory and encryption can be part of the Class 1 standard (read-write has already been added to Class 1). Others feel that these features would increase the cost of Class 1 tags. The additional memory and encryption could be made optional features in Class 1, but some worry that this could create interoperability problems. For example, if encryption is optional, some Gen 2-compliant readers may not be able to read an encrypted tag.

The HAG has not resolved the issue. Instead, it set up a working group to determine which features end users expect they will need in tags and readers as they roll out EPC technology for new applications and in new industries. The group will then propose the features and technical requirements that should be included in Class 2 tags and finally draft a Class 2 specification.

"We'll be determining the user requirements over next few months and then make technical proposals," says Sue Hutchinson, director of product development for EPCglobal US, in Lawrenceville, N.J. She says there is currently no timetable for when a Class 2 specification will be completed.

The HAG also set up a Testing and Conformance Working Group. EPCglobal has contracted with Met Laboratories to carry out the testing needed to certify products as Gen 2 compliant (see MET Labs to Test Gen 2 Hardware).

Hutchison says that guidelines for compliance testing were completed and submitted to EPCglobal’s board at the time it approved the Gen 2 standard. The job of the working group is to provide feedback to Met Labs on the conformance tests. The goal is to have tests ready when the first Gen 2 products hit the market next quarter.

Another Gen 2 Standing Working Group was set up to help shepherd the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard through the International Organization for Standardization's approval process. In late January, EPCglobal submitted the technical specifications for its Gen 2 protocol as a candidate for approval under the ISO 18000-6 standard. There is some concern that the protocol could be altered as it goes through the process, and then the EPCglobal version of Gen 2 and the ISO version would not be identical. The working group will work with ISO to try to prevent that.

And finally, the HAG set up a Template Discussion Group. Hutchison says that end users and hardware experts don't usually speak the same language. The aim of the template discussion group is to create a formula, or template, for gathering information about what features and technical requirements end users want in tags and readers. This will help those creating hardware standards understand the needs of users in new sectors or industries. So if a new business action group is set up for, say, the logistics sector, it could use the template to indicate which technical features and capabilities logistics providers need in tags and readers.
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