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Death of Class 0, 1 Exaggerated

EPCglobal says rumors that it has withdrawn support for the two currently accepted Electronic Product Code specifications, Class 0 and Class 1, are false.
By Mark Roberti
Tags: Standards
May 14, 2004EPCglobal's board of governors recently voted unanimously to discontinue the work of the Class 0 and Class 1 working groups, which were developing requirements to help an independent authority certify Class 0 and Class 1 tags for standards conformance. The news created rumors that EPCglobal was withdrawing support for the two
Sue Hutchison
existing Electronic Product Code specifications and that these would not be considered EPC standards after a UHF Gen 2 standard is established.

Last week, EPCglobal issued a memo to subscribers declaring that these rumors are false. "EPCglobal strongly supports both the current Class 1 and Class 0 published standards," it said. "We encourage vendors to offer products based on those standards, and we encourage end users to invest in products based on those standards."

The decision to close down the two groups had nothing to do with the future of the Class 1 and Class 0 specifications, according to Sue Hutchison, EPCglobal's product manager and facilitator for the organization’s hardware action group.

"The charter of two working groups within the hardware action groups that were working on Class 0 and Class 1 was focused on supplementing the existing Version 1 specification with some conformance-testing guidelines," she tells RFID Journal. "In working with the end users, the board of governors came to the determination that, given the imminence of a Gen 2 spec, it made sense to focus on more pragmatic testing for Version 1 products, including interoperability and tag unit performance testing, which includes testing tags on products to make sure they can be read onconveyors.

The Class 1 and Class 0 specifications will be phased out after the Gen 2 specification is well established. "After Gen 2 is ratified, we will start looking for evidence of production quantities of tags and readers based on Gen 2 and then set a sunset plan for when we will phase out the first generation of standards," says Hutchison. "This is pretty common when you talk about versions hardware and software."

The future of Class 1 and Class 0 air-interface protocols, which govern the way tags and readers communicate, is an important issue for early adopters, who have been looking for assurances that Classes 0 and 1 will still be accepted as EPC standards after the introduction of the Gen 2 air-interface protocol. These end users have already invested in Class 0 and Class 1 tags and/or readers and do not want their equipment to be obsolete as soon as the Gen 2 specification is approved, which is slated to happen on Oct. 6.

There were also concerns that EPCglobal's perceived failure to support Class 0 and Class 1 would slow adoption, because few companies would be willing to invest in tags and readers that will become obsolete. Providers of Version 1 tags, however, can easily provide an upgrade path to Gen 2 tags. For large orders, vendors could promise to deliver Class 0 or Class 1 tags until Gen 2 products are available and then complete the order by delivering Gen 2 tags.

EPCglobal plans to get input from the makers of Class 1 and Class 0 products and work with an independent, third-party testing house to develop interoperability tests. The full results of the interoperability tests will be given to the companies that participate in these tests, and EPCglobal will also summarize the results and give them to its subscribers.

The Gen 2 spec may turn out to not be backward compatible with the two Version 1 specs. End users that are in the process of purchasing RFID readers based on Version 1 specs, Hutchison says, should make sure that the equipment can be upgraded by installing new software or firmware to read new protocols. But she encourages companies to continue moving forward.

"Stay the course," she says. "Feel comfortable piloting and implementing based on the Version 1 standard, knowing that good work is coming in Version 2 and we are paying careful attention to ensuring end users have a smooth migration path."

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