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Korea Displays Focused Interest in RFID

This guest article from Mike Guillory considers Korea's ever increasing RFID leadership in the Asia/Pacific region, as evidenced by the recent RFID/USN Korea 2005 Conference in Seoul.
Nov 01, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

November 1, 2005—It is not uncommon these days to see a conference arise dealing with the rapidly emerging technology of RFID. As such, one might think that the RFID/USN Korea 2005 Conference held in Seoul, South Korea, on October 13th and 14th was just one more in a series of such events that have become commonplace. However, this event was different.

First, it should be noted that this event represented the first major conference by Korea dealing with RFID technology in the supply chain. The event was held at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in downtown Seoul. While the conference did not in any way fill this massive venue (there were two other events taking place at the facility at the same time), the atmosphere was clearly one reflecting a major event. The conference program had about 600 to 800 attendees listening (and participating) in a variety of sessions covering the core technology and how the adoption of RFID will integrate with the Ubiquitous Sensor Network (USN) as part of Korea's vision of a connected society.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to addressing the general state of RFID and the rapidly evolving landscape for adoption. This included discussions on Korea's IT vision for ubiquitous computing, the electronic distribution industry, and global standardization. The second day focused on a variety of topics organized into five "tracks". These included: Latest in Tags & Chips; Global Middleware / Mobile RFID; International RFID Policy, Market Analysis & Business Model; RFID Adoption (Including Case Studies); and Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN) / Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN).

In parallel with the conference was the exhibition which included about 150 booths representing a broad array of companies and organizations. While the total floor space was less than what we have seen some years back in the heyday of events like ScanTech, the energy level and density of traffic clearly brought back such memories to those who had them. One estimate was that there were over 3,000 viewers of the various exhibits (not including the exhibitors). Walking around the exhibition floor one felt the electricity and excitement that has since vanished from many events. Models, actors, and visually stunning displays were the norm.

In reflecting on the conference and exhibition a couple of points come to mind. First, Korea is dedicated to the development and promotion of RFID technology. They have allocated millions of dollars (U.S.) to support research and pilots. The government sponsored organization ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) is one such group taking the lead in this area. Leading technology companies such as Samsung, SK Telecom, and LG exhibited a large array of conceptual applications of RFID technology.

It was interesting to note that with all this display of technology, Korea is not moving in a path counter to that of the rest of the world as seen in the latest generation (i.e. Gen2) of passive UHF RFID. In fact, there were numerous exhibits showing both current generation (i.e. ISO/IEC 18000-6 Type B and EPC Class 0/1 Gen 1) as well as the latest generation (i.e. ISO/IEC 18000-6 Type C). Additionally, the exhibits included other forms of RFID technology such as active 433 MHz (ISO/IEC 18000-7) and a variety of sensor technologies (temperature, pressure, humidity, etc.) that integrate with RFID networks.

That being said, one might wonder if Korea is simply going to adopt the RFID technology as produced in the West. The answer is a resounding "No!" There were actual demonstrations of RFID chips and readers developed in Korea showing interoperability with similar products designed and produced outside of Korea. This was a clear example of how interoperability among multiple suppliers is achieved through standardization. It also became clear that Korea is far down the road in the development of their own version of Gen2 products. As such, we should fully expect Korea to become a major player in the RFID market supplying the supply chain.

As the conference and exhibition came to a close there was a strong sense of success in the air. The organizers were very pleased with the response (though it was heavily Asia/Pacific) and indicated that they were planning on having this become an annual event. In fact, their comments indicated that they were already predicting their next event to be twice the size of this one, with a significant increase in global participation. Given the energy and enthusiasm experienced while in Korea this time, I have no doubt they will continue to grow. We all should take note of the significance of the Asia/Pacific region (if we have not already) and be mindful that Korea will likely be one of the leaders in RFID technology there.
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