Major Companies Establish Canada Public-Policy Forum

By Claire Swedberg

GS1 Canada, Wal-Mart Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart and other firms in Canada will examine public policy specific to RFID technology, and provide recommendations to foster the technology’s adoption.

GS1 Canada, together with such major retailers as Wal-Mart Canada and Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as other companies operating in Canada, have formed the GS1 Canada Public Policy Forum.

This organization, an umbrella for seven working groups, will examine public policy specific to RFID technology and provide such data as standards information, pilot results and public concerns for Canadian companies involved in the implementation of RFID. GS1 Canada, along with other industry leaders, held its first meeting to establish the forum on Sept. 25 in Toronto. GS1 Canada is a nonprofit organization that promotes and maintains global standards for the identification of goods, locations and related e-commerce communication.

Eileen Mac Donald

Allegro, Bell Canada, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM have joined the forum’s first working group. This group will explore issues related to privacy concerns and may provide recommendations to address those concerns.

Forum Chairperson Eileen Mac Donald, senior vice president of GS1 Canada, says the idea was spawned after a growing number of pilots in Canada proved RFID technology to be a useful tool in supply-chain management. As global standards develop through EPCglobal, Mac Donald says, “It’s important that Canada participates on a global level.” The RFID pilots already undertaken in Canada, she adds, “indicated success and a reason for implementation [of the technology].”

GS1 Canada formed the Public Policy Forum to define the policy issues involving RFID technology and the recommendations to be made for Canadian companies. The time for such a group is right now, Mac Donald maintains, because Gen 2 tags have been released, technology has become more affordable and numerous pilots have proven the success of implementation.

“Forming this forum a year ago would have been premature,” says Mac Donald. “Industry needed a proven business case for the implementation of EPC RFID. Now that this is being demonstrated through multiple pilot projects, industry is moving to implement this technology on a wide scale, and there is a need to address the emerging public-policy issues around this technology.”

In addition to launching the privacy working group, the forum has formed a separate group focused on education and communication. The other five working groups will be created at a later date. The communication and education group will provide information related to RFID standards, particularly to midsize and small enterprises, which may have less access to RFID-related information.

“As technology moves forward, it’s important that we have the right information at the table,” Mac Donald notes. “Technology is moving at lightning speed in Canada, and we will have industry participants sitting at that table coming back with recommendations.”

The privacy work group will hold its first meeting in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 25, chaired by Janet Geisberger, director of corporate services for the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario. Its objective will be to find a balance between privacy concerns and industry practices. The education and communication work group will meet Monday, Oct. 30.

The forum’s five other working groups, once created, will be Data Security, covering data protection concerns; Labor Impact, evaluating labor-related risks; Environment, addressing RFID-related environmental concerns and waste management; Health and Life Science, examining risks related to EPC use; and Other Work Plans, handling any additional issues that might arise. Each group will be responsible for maintaining and updating EPC RFID usage guidelines, addressing consumer concerns about a variety of issues and informing and maintaining a dialogue with policy decision-makers and consumers.