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RFID for Everyone
If EPCglobal and the Near Field Communication Forum join forces, consumers could use mobile phones to access the Internet of Things.
Sep 23, 2007—As RFID becomes ubiquitous in various industries, the efficiencies it brings to supply chains will extend to other business processes. But companies will not be able to unleash RFID's myriad benefits if the technology continues to exclude consumers. At the same time, if consumers could experience immediate benefits from RFID, it would lower or even dissolve their resistance to the technology.
At the St. Gallen/ETH Zurich Auto-ID Lab, we believe that mobile phones enabled with near-field communications (NFC) technology could be one answer. The Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum, established in 2004 by Nokia, Philips and Sony, includes providers of payment systems, smart-card developers and other mobile handset manufacturers. Their goal is to develop secure and easy-to-use connections among consumer electronics devices mainly for payment, ticketing and service-initiation applications.
We are seeking to bridge these two worlds. We've joined the NFC Forum to participate in shaping their vision and share EPCglobal standards and other achievements, to prevent reinventing the wheel. We're also promoting the importance of consumer applications to EPCglobal. And we've just kicked off a one-year research project with Nokia to investigate applications for EPC readers integrated into mobile phones, as well as ways consumers could use the EPCglobal Network.
It's possible that UHF EPC readers will be integrated into mobile phones, though it's technically challenging because the readers drain a lot of energy from the phone's battery. It's more likely that NFC readers will be integrated into mobile phones because the driving application for NFC is payment and it needs to be compatible with HF smart cards. EPCglobal is working on a standard for HF EPC tags, but it will take time until this standard is deployed, if it is adopted at all.
Until the issue is resolved, we will develop solutions that work with either HF or UHF applications, so we can bring the benefits of RFID to some 3 billion mobile phone users.
Florian Michahelles is the deputy director of information management at ETH Zurich and associate director of the St. Gallen/ETH Zurich Auto-ID Lab. Elgar Fleisch is a professor of information and technology management at ETH Zurich and the University St. Gallen, and cochair of the Auto-ID Labs.
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