Middle East RFID Association Gets Ready for Business

By Rhea Wessel

After its official launch, expected soon, the organization will focus on helping the region's governments develop RFID-related regulations, but also offer workshops and training.

Companies that use or sell RFID technology in the Middle East, as well as academic organizations in that region, have formed a group designed to promote the use of radio frequency identification. The group is focusing its work on helping Middle Eastern governments create and implement policies and regulations, such as frequency dedication, for RFID.

The Qatar-based organization, known as the Middle East RFID Association, was founded in late 2008 and will be officially launched in the middle of this year. The association and many of its members will participate in RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East, to be held on June 15-17, 2009, at the InterContinental Hotel Festival City, in Dubai.

Catina Aghayan

Catina Aghayan, the group's president, says the idea for the Middle East RFID Association grew out of experiences she and others had while implementing and testing RFID technology at Qatar's General Postal Corp. (Q-Post), where she works as a quality-control consultant (see U.N.'s Universal Postal Union Gears Up for Large RFID Pilot).

"We saw the need for an association during the Q-Post project," Aghayan says. "We couldn't always get the information we needed or clarify things with the authorities, such as what frequencies to use."

According to Aghayan, the vendor-neutral, nonprofit association is funded by donations and contributions. In the future, she says, the organization may opt to charge membership fees, but for now, universities and government agencies can join for free.

The Middle East RFID Association, which aims to represent the RFID market in 35 countries along the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in northern Africa and central Asia, is currently working to establish its bylaws, structure and policies. Once the association is officially launched, it plans to offer workshops and training on RFID and related subjects, in addition to continuing to assist in the development of regulations and policies in countries in which its members are located or conduct business. For now, the group's working language is English, but it expects to eventually publish materials in Arabic, as well as in other languages.

"We are the first such organization in the Middle East," Aghayan says. "By bringing together experts in the field, facilitating exchanges between them on this platform and connecting with experts outside the region, we can offer lots of benefits."

Many companies and vendors in the region face an unclear regulatory environment, Aghayan explains. The Middle East RFID Association wants to help governments in each country set regulations for RFID. For instance, many nations need to determine which frequencies are available for the technology's use.

The greater Middle East area lacks a regional organization like the European Union, Aghayan says, which is helping to set uniform regulations in the countries it represents. In some nations in the region, she notes, the telecommunications authority is in charge of setting rules, while in others, it is the general regulator.

"We will look at each and every country individually," Aghayan states. "We are finalizing the procedures on how we want to approach governments with our recommendations."

Aghayan's organization is affiliated with the International RFID Business Association (RFIDba), a nonprofit trade group focused on RFID education, training and certification. Harry Pappas, RFIDba's CEO, is also the chairman of the Middle East RFID Association.

The association's board of advisors includes Daniel Engels, Authenticrypt's chief technology officer; Patrick King, Michelin's global electronics strategist; Stephane Pique, GS1/EPCglobal's European director of EPC RFID; Kenneth Porad, the program manager for Boeing's automated-identification program; George Scott-Campbell, Q-Post's director of IT services; Talar Shahsuvaroghlu, an environmental scientist with AECOM; Ben Zoghi, a professor and director of Texas A&M University's RFID Oil & Gas Solution Group Consortium; Adrogue Ignacio, Elysium Sàrl's CEO; and Edwin Chikhani, the CEO of DepCo Systems.