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EPCglobal Tracks Item-Level RFID

EPCglobal hosted an event last week at which RFID vendors demonstrated their item-level tagging technology solutions. Hosted at the MET Laboratories in San Jose, California, the item-level technology demonstration saw 56 demos from 23 vendors. RFID Update spoke with EPCglobal's Sue Hutchinson about the event.
Mar 30, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 30, 2006—EPCglobal hosted an event last week at which RFID vendors demonstrated their technology solutions to seven item-level tagging "use cases" or scenarios. Chosen by EPCglobal’s Item Level Tagging Joint Requirements Group, the use cases were collectively representative of the situations in which item-level tagging might be used and the demands that the technology must meet. They ranged from garments on a moving metal rack, to goods in a stable shelf environment, to a mix of different products randomly tossed together in a tote bag. For more background, see our article EPCglobal to Compare Item-Level Solutions.

Hosted at the MET Laboratories in San Jose, California, the item-level technology demonstration saw 56 demos from 23 vendors. Ultrahigh, high, and even low frequency technologies were demonstrated, with roughly a 50-40-10 percentage split, respectively. There were 44 RFID end user companies represented. RFID Update spoke with EPCglobal director of product management Sue Hutchinson about the event.

To Hutchinson, the clearest takeaway was just how far RFID technology has come in a relatively short amount of time. "We've all graduated past the proprietary technologies and science projects. There are some really solid technologies out there that give us a good path forward," she said, noting that there was "no clear winner". The challenge confronting EPCglobal and the wider community, therefore, is not whether good technology exists to satisfy the idiosyncrasies of item-level tagging, but which one of the many is best. "The good news for the overall community is the robustness of the techniques and products that already exist," said Hutchinson.

She said that there were a number of surprises revealed at the event, including the performance of low frequency (LF) technology. "No one knew a whole lot about LF," she said. There were also some demonstrations that ran counter to the conventional wisdom about item-level tagging, although Hutchinson wouldn't be specific. A safe guess would be UHF products performing well in situations for which the technology has historically been deemed unusable, such as around liquids and metals.

The next step for EPCglobal is synthesizing all the information captured at the event and distilling it into formal guidance for the community. The Air Interface Working Group will work throughout April to produce a set of recommendations with which to move forward. The group's conclusions could take many forms, according to Hutchinson, from new EPCglobal guidelines, to the modification of an existing protocol, to the development of an entirely new standard. "Everything is still open and on the table," she said.
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