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Europe Warming Up to EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID

At RFID Journal LIVE! Europe, attendees applauded EPCglobal Gen 2 technology but acknowledged the effort still required to foster adoption.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 31, 2006Gen 2, Gen 2, Gen 2. Everywhere you turned at last week's RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference, attendees were singing the praises of the EPCglobal Gen 2 RFID tag. Bill Hardgrave, director of the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas (ITRI), hailed the "tremendous" improvements in Gen 2 technology, while DaimlerChrysler said it was helping the automaker manage containers at one of its plants, among other applications.

One of the most convincing statements, backed up by even more convincing data, came from Christian Plenge, head of research and innovation at MGI Metro Group Information Technology, during the first session on Thursday (see Metro Group to Roll Out RFID at up to 150 Sites ). He gave EPC Gen 2 tags credit for making many of Metro Group's RFID tests a success.

MG!'s Christian Plenge
Plenge presented an impressive set of read rates with new readers and Gen 2 tags, stating, "All of this is due to the improvements of Gen 2 technology." He added that Gen 2's reach and speed, as well as its sensitivity to materials such as liquids and semi-liquids, have improved.

EPCglobal released the specifications for Gen 2 tags to the market in December 2004, and manufacturers had the first tags ready for market in late 2005. By the beginning of this year, Gen 2 tags had become widely available for implementation and testing.

Metro, an RFID leader in Europe, was one of the first large companies to use the tags in tests. Plenge said the tag and new readers achieved 100 percent read rates for goods on the outside of a pallet, including such products as Charmin toilet paper, Milka chocolate, Ariel laundry detergent, Shauma shampoo and Rexona deodorant sticks. Readings of these products inside the pallet ranged from 75 to 85 percent.

On a mixed pallet of shampoo, detergent, coffee and deodorant, the read rate was 91 percent on the outside and 82 percent on the inside. Plenge told attendees the retailer sees the possibility of deploying Gen 2 tags for mixed pallets on CDs to create smart clothing rails, and for scanning goods with a hand reader.

In another Gen 2-related talk, Antonio Rizzi, founder and head of the RFID Lab at the University of Parma, said the lab has been assessing the performance of Gen 2 tags and readers under different operational conditions, such as distance, orientation and exposure to metal, water and humidity. Rizzi's RFID Lab, which opened several months ago (see Italian RFID Lab to Open in May), is pushing ahead to create more pilots in order to move from a lab to a more operative environment. Eventually, he said he wants to combine a logistics pilot with a department store pilot to create a model of the full supply chain.

GS1, in conjunction with its daughter organization EPCglobal, promotes multi-industry, user-driven standards for the EPC RFID technology. Stephen Pique, the organization's European director, gave attendees an update on GS1's activities at the industry level. In December, he said, EPCglobal will hold a second discussion group meeting with the consumer-electronics industry; in the first quarter of next year, GS1 will continue discussions with the aerospace and chemicals industry; and members of the automotive industry will meet to discuss RFID standards at some point in 2007.

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