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Farsens intros flexible platform for developing battery-free wireless sensors ••• Auburn University RFID Lab launches Tagged Item Certification Program ••• Bluvision, Beam Wallet team on rewards program ••• Aquabit Spirals unveils Smart Plate to deliver content to shoppers ••• RFID Professional Institute announces first official certification exam.
By Beth Bacheldor

Auburn University RFID Lab Launches Tagged Item Certification Program

Auburn University's RFID Lab has established an RFID Tagged Item Certification program designed so that retail product manufacturers can measure the performance of their RFID-tagged items against specific RFID quality measurements outlined in the TIPP test processes as described by GS1 US's Tagged Item Performance Protocol test methodology, which the lab helped to develop.

RFID Lab's testing chamber
The GS1 TIPP guideline, released earlier this year (see GS1 Expects Tagged-Item Performance Protocol Guideline to Boost RFID Adoption), includes a scale for grading the performance of EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags when used on specific products and in particular environments, as well standardizing the testing conducted to identify that grade. For the TIPP test process, each grade is defined by a set of values that specify the tagged-item sensitivity and backscatter at various orientations. In order for a tagged item to qualify for a certain grade, its tag's performance must meet or exceed the tag sensitivity and backscatter power specified by that grade level. The TIPP guideline is intended to make it easier for both retailers and suppliers to test and identify the best tag for use with each product and use case.

Since its founding in 2005, the academic facility has provided testing services so that product manufacturers can determine the proper tags to use, as well as the optimal placement of those tags on products, and to then test the resultant read rates. Under its ARC program, which pioneered many of the testing practices for retail RFID, the lab still offers such services. Auburn's ARC program was recently adapted and published in the GS1 TIPP Item Level Grading System, making the RFID Lab uniquely qualified to offer the new certification program

"The main difference is that originally, we were helping people to figure out what kinds of tags to use and where to put them. We still do that to this day, but the Tagged Item Certification is a bit different," says Justin Patton, the RFID Lab's director. "We're taking items that are already tagged by a supplier and certifying them against a performance grade. It's evolution and maturity of RFID. We're moving toward an industry of interoperability, where retailers can request the type of performance they would like in the language of grades, and suppliers can show their item certification as validation that they are compatible."

According to Patton, there are currently no commercial labs offering this certification. There may be some in the future, he says, but for now, the Auburn University RFID Lab is using the certification mainly as a research platform. "The data we collect is also used to develop better practices in the future," he states, "and to help gauge the market and technology readiness for new RFID fields of research."

Manufacturers of apparel, cosmetics, grocery items, electronics, jewelry and other goods can directly submit their RFID-tagged items to the lab. Interested parties can visit the lab's Tagged Item Certification website and fill out a certification form for each tagged stock-keeping unit (SKU) to be tested. A certificate will be issued only if the item meets the requested TIPP grade requirements, as well as the ARC quality requirements. The cost of the service is $200 per SKU.

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