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Will China's RFID Standards Support EPC Protocols, Systems?

China has yet to release its much-anticipated RFID standards; some observers say it has produced too little, too late.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 16, 2006Two months ago, a group of 15 Chinese ministries and commissions, including the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), issued a white paper about RFID technology and policy in China, explaining the country's plans to develop a national RFID standard.

The paper's authors describe China's plan to create an "independent RFID-related industrial chain" in which it will "make breakthroughs in such key technologies concerning industrialization as chip design and manufacturing, antenna design and manufacturing, packaging technology and equipment, reader design and manufacturing, and integration of electronic tags." It also says China is creating its own numbering scheme for RFID tag data, as well as its own middleware and system integration technologies, data-sharing system and testing platform.


Chris Adcock
Nowhere, however, does the 18-page document mention the international RFID standards body EPCglobal, nor the standards, electronic product code (EPC) numbering system or data-sharing network EPCglobal has already developed. It does say Chinese RFID standards will "correspond to international standards," but does not detail how they would correspond, nor whether RFID tags made to Chinese specifications would interoperate with tags compliant with ISO or EPCglobal standards. Last month, ISO ratified its latest UHF RFID standard, 18000-6C, based on the latest EPCglobal standard: Class 1 Gen 2.

As RFID industry players await China's RFID regulations—drafts of which are due soon, to be finalized next year—analysts and standards developers are weighing in on what the standards will look like and how they'll impact the growth of passive RFID technology in China. In a new report from market research firm ABI Research, titled "The_RFID_Market_in_China The RFID Market in China: Assessment of Chinese RFID Market Opportunities and Regulatory Issues," Hong Kong-based analyst Junmei He writes that it is simply too late for China to create a national standard, and that the country should instead begin working with EPCglobal to develop its domestic RFID industry around EPC tag and data standards. By failing to do so, she claims, the nation has created a "climate of uncertainty around the issue of RFID standards in China."

To back its claim that China will not be successful in developing a national standard, the report says most non-Chinese companies that contract Chinese manufacturers will require them to use EPC Gen 2 tags, and that "EPCglobal's aggressive move in the heartland of Chinese manufacturing" has already made EPC Gen 2 a de facto standard.

EPCglobal Hong Kong is already initiating a number of projects aimed at developing EPC-based RFID deployments. Last summer, the Hong Kong government earmarked HK$14 million ($1.8 million) to develop the infrastructure needed to track goods manufactured in southern China's Pearl River Delta (see H.K. Launches RFID Supply Chain Project). In addition, a number of companies and organizations in China—including its postal service—are conducting technology trials (see China Post Deploys EPC RFID System to Track Mailbags).

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