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Auto-ID Center Opens Lab in Japan

The research center at Keio University will be headed by renowned Japanese computer scientist Jun Murai.
Jan 22, 2003Jan. 22, 2003 - The Auto-ID Center today opened a research lab at Keio University in Japan. The lab is the center's fourth around the world and will be headed by renowned Japanese computer scientist Jun Murai.
The center in Japan will be led by Keio's Jun Murai

The Auto-ID Center was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. Its aim from the start was to create a global system for tracking goods using a single numbering system called the Electronic Product Code. For that reason, the center established a lab at Cambridge University in England in 2000. The center opened another lab at the University of Adelaide in Australia last June.

The center has been particularly keen to establish a presence in Asia for two reasons. First, many goods originate in Asia, and it's important that companies be able to tag at the source. And second, Asia is a leader in microchip production and electronics, so it can play an important role in producing low-cost tags and readers.

"Japan leads the world in both supply chain management and electronics, so we are really privileged to be able to work with some of the best Japanese researchers and companies," said Auto-ID Center Executive Director Kevin Ashton. "Professor Jun Murai is a legend in the world of networking, and I have no doubt that both he and Japan will play a major role in leading and shaping the future of automatic identification and therefore 21st century computing."

Jun Murai is currently professor of environmental information at Keio University, president of the Japan Network Information Center, and general chairperson of the WIDE Project (a Japanese Internet research consortium). A pioneer in building the Internet in Japan in the early 1980s, he has concentrated his recent research efforts on mobile and ubiquitous computing.

The opening of the center should raise Japan and Asia's profile in the RFID industry. The region has so far received little attention for its development efforts and use of RFID technology, even though many people say Japan, in particular, will be a major player in the industry.

"Japan will be one of the first early adopters on a massive scale," says Dirk Heyman, head of Sun Microsystems' global consumer goods industry segment and chairman of the Auto-ID Center's technology board. "There is a massive interest in this technology in Japan. They have a lot of RFID applications, so it is not new to them."

Sun has been running a field test in Japan with a large beverage company. The project involves tagging reusable containers for plastic bottles. Heyman says the test is going well, but could not elaborate because of confidentiality requirements.

Japanese companies cannot use ultra-high frequency RFID tags, because the Japanese government has allocated the 866 MHz to 930 MHz band to cellular phones. And strict limits on the power output of readers limits the read range of 2.45 GHz tags.

There is an effort underway to convince the Japanese government to change the regulations to allow RFID to use the UHF band. But it's more likely that companies will need to use multi-frequency tags and readers on products being tracked to or from Japan. The new lab will focus some of its R&D efforts on this issue.

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