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A Decade of Progress

An RFID evangelist, cheerleader and agent provocateur shares his views on the industry's failures and successes during the past 10 years.
By John Greaves
The age of portal reading in passive UHF—as brief as it was, from 1998 to 2008—is now over. Portal reading is under challenge from broad-array-antenna deliverables (see RFID 2.0). Read range is accelerating, as both tag and reader deliverables improve, very much in keeping with my timeline above for innovation to reach market, prove itself and be widely adopted.

The purpose and use of a handheld interrogator in UHF deliverables has always escaped me, though I accept that at this time, the accelerated reduction in the cost of a handheld—and the reality that these devices allow for the use of bar codes as a fallback or confirming identifier—is likely to continue handheld use for the near future. The implementation of broad-array antennas, as well as the inevitable advances to complement the use of the broad array by adding 360-degree bar-code visibility, will, in due course, render the practical need for such instruments moot.

The expansion of 13.56 MHz HF deliverables has been adeptly managed by the chip houses and label makers, and has been used to great advantage in the increasing delivery of consumer-empowerment tools, based on mobile telephony and welcomed by carriers that have not only utilized the now rapidly emerging (albeit, after at least one false start) Near Field Communication (NFC) applications, but also added bar-code scanning competency as a consumer empowerment.

The increasing use of HF deliverables in the leisure sector, sports facilities, the public transport sector, medical record cards and secure cashless payments bodes well for the continued embedding of these deliverables. However, the pace of adoption has also led to the commoditization of all elements at a rapid pace.

RFID, the entire spectrum of deliverable short-range device innovation and adoption, is doing nicely, but it could do better—especially in the areas of installation and integration.

As an industry, we can take some comfort from the realization that in the past 10 years—the first decade of the 21st century—our industry has brought ease and convenience to consumers, improved the bottom line to business (except our own!) and advanced the use of RFID into many hitherto unconsidered applications.

There are pressing matters that need to be addressed. And these matters are not for a standards body, or a regulator, to decide on—they are for an industry body... AIM, where are you?

John Greaves is a 20-year veteran of the RFID and automatic-identification industries. He was the founding chair of the U.S. RFID standards group, led the European Spectrum Initiative, and headed EAN.UCC's GTAG program. Greaves has served with distinction in the standards and equipment-regulation bodies ETSI, CEPT, CEN and ISO, and is currently a director of the LPRA (Low Power Radio Association) Council, and a member of the Institute of Logistics, CIES, ICSC and the CSCMP (Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals).

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