EPC Protocol Gets ISO’s Blessings

The news that the International Organization for Standardization has approved EPCglobal's second generation air interface protocol was widely expected, but it is a watershed for radio frequency identification.
Published: July 24, 2006

When I first launched RFID Journal in February 2002, there was a lot of discussion about the Electronic Product Code protocol versus the UHF protocols that were already under consideration by the International Organization for Standardization — ISO 1800-6A and ISO 1800-6B.

There was a lot of hand wringing and angst about why EPC needed to have its own protocol and couldn’t just use the ISO protocols and store an EPC on the tag. There was a lot of passion on both sides. Some argued the EPC protocol was simple, which would allow the tags to be cheaper. ISO folks argued that the ISO standard was a truly international protocol and would work just as well as the EPC protocol.

It always seemed to me that the issue would work itself out, that compromises would be made and the market would drive the technology in one direction or the other. It seemed pretty clear that the end users were voting for the EPC protocol, regardless of the merits of the ISO protocols.

The battle over ISO and EPC essentially ended when some 60 technology companies came together to support a second generation EPC protocol, which combines the best features of the ISO protocols with some features of the original EPC protocol and mixes in a few additional features to give end users the best possible protocol.

EPCglobal did the right thing in submitting the protocol to ISO, and the news that ISO has now ratified the protocol as ISO 18000-6C is good news. It means end users can benefit from all the security that comes with using technology that is based on a true international standard. Countries, such as China, which have said they would not support a protocol that wasn’t an international standard, have one less reason not to embrace the EPC protocol.

Whatever anyone says about EPC, one thing is for sure, the debates over ISO versus EPC are history.