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The Value of an HF EPC Standard

Although GS1's ratification of a high-frequency standard did not generate a lot of buzz, it is good news for end users.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 17, 2011Last month, GS1 ratified an Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard for high-frequency (HF) RFID tags (see GS1 Ratifies EPC HF Standard, Aerospace Tag-Data Amendment). The ratification took longer than expected, because GS1 first had to work through some complex intellectual-property issues. In the meantime, other HF standards—ISO 15693 and ISO 14443—have gained significant traction. Still, the HF EPC standard is good news for end users.

I don't expect everyone currently employing the ISO 14443 standard for financial transactions, or the ISO 15693 standard for access control and inventory tracking, to immediately switch to the new HF EPC standard. But the new standard does offer some additional features that could be of value to those currently utilizing ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC tags, as well as those employing the existing standards.

The new air-interface protocol (officially known as v2.0.3) will enable 13.56 MHz RFID tags to be utilized with EPC numbers, and the protocol is the same as for the ISO 18000-3 Mode 3 (3M3) standard, published in November 2010 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). So the HF EPC standard, like the UHF standard, is globally recognized.

HF RFID systems behave differently than UHF solutions. HF tags have a shorter read range, and the read field is well-defined. Moreover, less energy is absorbed by water at the HF frequency (13.56 MHz) than at the UHF frequency (860 to 960 MHz), so they perform a little more consistently in the presence of products containing high water content. And radio waves penetrate materials a little better at lower frequency, so HF tags might be useful when embedding tags in certain types of packages.


Leigh Turner 2011-10-20 06:37:33 PM
Managing Director, Invertech Mark, I agree it's good news for some end users, but the HF EPC air interface standard is unfortunately overly bloated and complex and does not properly take into account suitability for alternative embodiments using rapidly emerging next generation fully printed CMOS semiconductors to realize very low cost item level tags :-( With a little bit of foresight such highly desirous tags could have been accommodated by defining HF protocol variants better matched to the low transistor count / circuit complexity embodiment characteristic of printed semiconductors.....now an additional / different HF protocol is needed to enable these mass markets to flourish under the benefit of a global standard. A similar accommodation for simple but high performance protocols has been made in the 18000-6 revisions. Cheers, Leigh

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