How to Read RFID Press Releases

By Bob Violino

RFID is an emerging market. Vendors of all stripes want to jump in—sometimes before they have a product. Beware of vendors issuing press releases that are, let’s say, creative in the way they describe their offering. Be wary of the following claims.

  • TAGS

“Our tags and readers are EPC-compliant.” There is, at this point, no such thing as “EPC-compliant” technology. EPCglobal has not established criteria for testing EPC compliance. There is no guarantee of interoperability between EPC tags and readers made by different vendors, so companies should do their own testing for now.

“Our technology is Wal-Mart compliant.” Wal-Mart has a lot of clout, but it’s not a standards body. To comply with Wal-Mart’s mandate, suppliers have to use 96-bit, UHF Class 1 or Class 0 tags and achieve 100 percent read accuracy on pallets and on cases once the pallets are broken up. Read accuracy depends on many factors beyond the vendor’s control.

“Our tags support EPC data structures.” This means you can write a 96-bit EPC to the tag, which is true of most RFID tags. To meet the mandates issued by retailers, the tags have to support the data structure and use either the Class 1 or the Class 0 “air-interface protocol”—the means by which tags and readers communicate.

“Our chip/reader is compliant with EPCglobal’s UHF Gen 2 specification.” The Gen 2 spec won’t be chosen until October, so no company can make this claim yet. Some products might work with a draft spec, but there’s no guarantee they will be compliant with the final spec.

“We’ve RFID-enabled our application.” This vague term could mean almost anything. Some vendors claim their applications are RFID-enabled because the software can handle unique serial numbers. Others have added a data field for a unique serial number and made the claim. But being able to store a serial number doesn’t mean that an application can take filtered RFID data and do something meaningful with it. Ask application vendors for specifics about how they handle RFID data.