Progress Continues

By Mark Roberti

Despite several hiccups, including questions related to intellectual property, development of the EPC Gen 2 standard continues.

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I have worked at several publications during my career where I was out of synch with my editors. They wanted me to write “sexy” stories, ones that either hyped the latest technology or exaggerated the problems with a technology. I wanted to write stories that were informative, provided perspective and were balanced. These types of stories might not be inherently sexy, I would argue, but they would help readers make sense of the events going on around them. With this philosophy in mind, I'd like to address the development of the EPC Gen 2 standard.

There have been a lot of negative articles lately focused on intellectual property issues, infighting among the companies developing the standard, concerns among end users about delays in the creation of the standard and on and on and on. While all of these issues are legitimate topics for RFID Journal and other publications to write about, it’s important to keep them in perspective.

Last week, we broke the news that Intermec had released details of its licensing program. It was certainly the topic that generated the most chatter after the invitation-only Hardware Action Group (HAG) meeting arranged by EPCglobal, but it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that progress on the Gen 2 was made at that meeting.

According to several people present, the meeting was more civil and businesslike than previous meetings, where competing groups argued the merits of their proposed standard over others. Now that there is a single consensus protocol (see Consensus Reached on EPC Gen 2), all members are essentially moving in the same direction.

Substantial changes were made to the Chicago protocol, and I'm told that there was some horse trading over the features of the protocol. Some members think that the protocol should be less complex to reduce the cost of the Gen 2 chips. Others believe that decreasing the complexity of the chip won't substantially reduce tag costs but could increase the cost of readers, which have to do more of the work.

There is also concern among some members of the HAG that Intermec's IP policy will slow the work on Gen 2. If an attempt is made to rework the protocol to eliminate features that Intermec says are covered by its patents, it would indeed slow things down. And while I'm sure that the HAG will want to look at all possible options related to intellectual property issues, my understanding is that EPCglobal is committed to its original timeframe of completing the Gen 2 standard by October.

In my view, everything we've seen this year with regard to Gen 2 has been a normal part of the process of creating a standard. It's inevitable that vendors are going to haggle over standards. And it's inevitable that the IP issue is going to be raised. There will be more patent holders coming forward in the next 12 to 18 months claiming the standard infringes on their patents. These things might slow down the process and create some short-term confusion. But the important thing is that the process is continuing, the issues are being addressed and progress is being made.

I realize it would be more exciting if RFID Journal pumped up these issues and made them sound like the end of the world as we know it. But I believe I would be doing our readers a disservice, because businesses need good, balanced, objective information to make good decisions. Understanding that what's going on is part of the normal process of creating standards allows business people to continue to plan EPC deployments without having to worry about each bump in the road.

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

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