China Embraces UHF

Five years ago, when I started RFID Journal and embraced the concept of using Electronic Product Code technologies in the supply chain, many people said it would never happen because few countries had allocated a portion of the UHF spectrum for radio frequency identification. That has changed, as country after country has revised their regulations. Last week, one of the most important countries—China—opened up the spectrum for RFID use (see China Approves Requirements for UHF Bandwidth).

Why is China so important? Because that country is the world’s manufacturing center, and many of the goods sold in Japan, Europe and North America are made there. Tagging eventually will be done in China, and companies will get benefits as they track goods from the point of manufacture to the point of sale.

But the next step is equally critical. China has to adopt international standards—specifically, the EPCglobal and ISO 18000-6 standards. The Chinese government has been reluctant to embrace EPC because it doesn’t want Chinese companies to pay royalties to Western companies. It would prefer that those firms possess and earn revenue from intellectual property.

China has recently become more receptive—or, at least, less antagonistic—toward EPC standards. Government agencies, in fact, opened the doors to academics from the Auto-ID Labs, hosting an academic convocation. Government officials tell me they also see a softening of China’s position, if not a warming to EPC.

So what has brought about this change? Chinese companies understand that they are part of the global supply chain and need to use the same standards as their business partners in the rest of the world. They also see South Korea, Singapore and Japan investing significant amounts of money to support the development of RFID “clusters”—centers of research, development and manufacturing.

My guess is that it won’t be too long…perhaps another year…before China embraces the EPC UHF standard. And when it does, it will be good news for all companies that manufacture in China and would like to track goods through the entire supply chain, instead of just from a regional distribution center to a retail store.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.