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Banking Interest Climbs for RFID, Spurs Standards

A financial services industry association announced an initiative to develop standards so industry companies can use RFID more easily. The Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) will first focus on IT asset management, file tracking and courier operations, and hopes to develop its first draft standard by year end.
Jul 14, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 14, 2008—RFID interest is rising in the financial industry, which recently launched an initiative to develop standards to facilitate adoption. The Financial Services Technology Consortium, an association headquartered on Wall Street that evaluates technology and develops standards for banks, investment firms, credit card companies and other organizations in the industry, announced the RFID initiative last week. The FSTC set a goal of completing a draft standard by the end of the year.

"We were approached by several of the largest banks in the country, who stated a need to standardize how RFID could be implemented so they could avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles," FSTC chief of staff John Fricke told RFID Update. "There are three or four institutions that are struggling to implement RFID right now, and there are eight or nine others who are considering it. If you're going to develop a standard, the time is now."

The initiative will focus on three RFID use cases: managing IT assets, tracking courier bags used to transfer important documents from branches to central processing locations, and document management. Other applications and processes will also be considered.

"They [the FSTC members who started the initiative] reviewed some of the standards that are out there and found it would take changes to these standards to produce the results the banks wanted," Fricke said.

Financial institutions want to develop technology and process standards so RFID will be easier to implement, according to Fricke. For example, although IT asset management is an internal process, standards would be beneficial so institutions would not have to accommodate a variety of different frequencies, tag locations and data structures from equipment vendors. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it could RFID-enable new servers shipped to customers to support automated asset management, but the company pre-encodes the tags and offers limited data content options (see HP Launches RFID Service for IT Assets).

"Some of our member institutions started using bar codes to inventory assets in their data centers. They found that RFID could reduce the time and improve accuracy by 80 or 90 percent. The banks are asking us to come together as a financial community to speak to suppliers so that equipment comes with a tag already on it in a standardized place," Fricke said. "If any individual institution went to IBM, Dell or Sun, the probability of getting them to make a change for the entire industry is not very high. But if we go to suppliers as an industry, they can't ignore it. The opportunity and the market are too big to ignore."

The project team has been holding weekly conference calls and is planning its first in-person meeting, which will take place in Maryland. Several technology vendors and standards associations have been invited, and the FSTC is hopeful that more organizations from the technology and financial services industries will become involved in the effort. Interested parties should contact Fricke through the FSTC.

"We believe in working together to solve problems," he said. "I'd hate for a really good idea to be out there and not be shared."
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