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Imminent ISO Standardization a Boon for RTLS

ARC Advisory Group's Chantal Polsonetti discusses how the imminent standardization of the air interface portion of the ISO standard for RTLS will likely bring down the cost of RTLS hardware as well as attract market entrants offering niche applications.
Tags: Standards
Nov 30, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

November 30, 2006—Recent articles from ARC Advisory Group on the topic of RFID standardization have focused on its role in enabling multi-vendor interoperability, spurring growth in supply chain and industrial applications, and moving the technology to the next step in its lifecycle. EPCglobal's standardization of the Gen2 protocol, and Gen2's subsequent inclusion in ISO 18000-6C (see ISO Incorporates Gen2 into RFID Standard), has provided this type of enabling platform for applications that employ passive UHF technology.

RTLS (real-time location systems) and proprietary closed-loop RFID solutions also increasingly require standards-based architectures to add more incremental capabilities, integrate with existing infrastructures, lower application costs, and maximize current and potential ROI. Pending standardization of Part 2 of the air interface portion of the ISO 24730 RTLS standard has the potential to bring some of these benefits to users of RTLS.

The existing ISO 24730-1 standard defines the application program interface (API) for use in RTLS applications. The pending Part 2, or "ISO 24730-2", which is likely to be published as a final ISO standard in the next six to eight weeks, defines an air interface protocol at 2.4 GHz. This standard expands somewhat on the ANSI 371.1 standard for 2.4 GHz RTLS, frequently dubbed "the WhereNet standard", in that it defines an optional 125 KHz exciter mode that allows modification of the rate of location update and localization of the RTLS device. ISO 24730 includes definitions of these modes and the means by which they are accomplished.

Similar to the experience with other standardization activities whose origins stem from a particular competitor's offerings, legacy RTLS competitors are not likely to be among the early adopters of this standard air interface protocol. Instead, the more likely possibility is that it will allow new competitors to enter the market to serve specialty, application-specific needs and leverage the standard air interface protocol to communicate with the main system. In the RTLS segment, this could manifest in the availability of application-specific tags that can sense temperature, shock, and other environmental variables that current vendors' systems may not provide. Availability of a sensor interface in the G2 Microsystems system-on-chip ("SoC") that currently supports a draft specification of ISO 24730-2 is an example of a currently-available platform that allows OEMs to easily incorporate this type of incremental sensing capability. (For more on G2 Microsystems' SoC, see New Chip Could Transform Active RFID Market.)

Standardization will also lower the barriers to market entry for new competitors looking to capitalize on the opportunity for lower-cost tags and readers in this traditionally pricey segment where tag cost can exceed US$50 in low quantities. Standardization will also allow the technology to extend into other industries, such as healthcare, where asset tracking is taking off. The good news for users is the increasing number of suppliers adopting the standard, and resulting higher component counts for products like the G2 Microsystems SoC, will subsequently drive down the cost of RTLS solutions for all customers.
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