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EPCglobal Awards First Gen 2 Interoperability Certifications

EPCglobal's testing partner, MET Labs, ran 12 products through a battery of interoperability tests, which they needed to pass to receive the interoperability mark. Eventually, all 12 did.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 14, 2006RFID hardware interoperability—the ability of tags and interrogators made by different manufacturers to work interchangeably—has always been a main goal of the EPC Gen 2 RFID standardization and commercialization work of EPCglobal, the not-for-profit organization set up by GS1. The group has been planning to issue certifications of interoperability to Gen 2 products since before the Gen 2 protocol was ratified in late 2004. At the EPCglobal European Conference in Germany last week, the group announced the first companies to earn the EPCglobal Gen 2 hardware interoperability mark, certifying that EPC/RFID devices such as tags, readers and printer-encoders will interoperate with other certified devices. Knowing that a mix of Gen 2 products from different manufacturers will work well together should give users of those devices confidence in the performance of their RFID systems.

The chart below shows the products awarded the interoperability mark, as well as their manufacturer.

Initial Recipients of EPCglobal's Gen 2
Hardware Interoperability Certifications
  Datamax • DMX-A-4212, A-Class printer-encoder
• DMX-H-4212X, H-Class printer-encoder
• DMX-M-4208, M-Class printer-encoder

  Impinj • Speedway interrogator
• Monza tag

  Intermec Technologies • IM5 interrogator module
   (used in IF4, IF5 and IV7 interrogators)
• Large Rigid tag

  Paxar • 9855 printer-encoder (US/EU/JPN versions)

  Raflatac • G2 tag

  Sirit • Infinity 510 interrogator

Baltimore-based MET Laboratories, the official testing partner for the EPCglobal Hardware Certification program (which certifies Gen 2 hardware for conformance to the Gen 2 protocol) performed the first round of interoperability tests. MET started developing the testing specifications in November 2005, while EPCglobal's Gen 2 interoperability working group, part of the hardware action group, began gathering test-product submissions from vendors. To be considered for interoperability certification, any submitted RFID tag, interrogator or printer-encoders had to contain an integrated circuit or reader module that had already been awarded the EPCglobal Gen 2 conformance certification (thus far, 17 Gen 2 hardware products have been thus awarded).

In early August, MET began running the submitted products through the interoperability testing specifications it had written. "We ran a rather large series of test cases to verify the devices interoperated properly," explains Gaylon Morris, director of RFID programs at MET Labs. "The test cases were designed to exercise, as much as possible, the full functionality of the Gen 2 Class 1 specification."

In total, MET Labs carried out 267 test cases for each of the submitted tags and interrogators, as well as six for the printer-encoders, says Dusmantha Tennakoon, MET's RFID hardware conformance programs manager. A number of test cases are meant to ensure that an interrogator can write data to each portion of a tag's memory, so one test case might involve having the interrogator write a 96-bit EPC to the appropriate section of the memory of a Gen 2 tag. Another might be to write user memory to that portion of the tag's memory.

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