Standard Deviation

By Bob Violino

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Most industries are debating whether to adopt RFID technology based on standards created by EPCglobal, the nonprofit group commercializing Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology, or by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Airbus and Boeing are flying a different route: They plan to use both.

The two companies plan to use passive HF (13.56 MHz) tags on individual products. Most airplane parts are metal, which make them hard to tag because radio waves bounce off metal and antennas become detuned when they touch metal objects. But 13.56 MHz tags generally perform far better on metal objects than UHF tags because of the difference in the way they communicate with the reader.

This year, the Air Transport Association, an aviation industry trade group, added an RFID standard to its SPEC2000, a comprehensive set of specifications, products and services for the aviation parts industry. This standard calls for the use of IS0 15693 passive read-write tags, which operate at 13.56 MHz, on individual parts. The RFID tags will be integrated with existing bar-coded labels, which will still be required under the standard. By the end of the year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is expected to certify the use of these passive RFID tags for parts that have been installed on planes. Boeing expects some of its suppliers to begin using RFID tags on individual parts after the FAA certification is announced.

Boeing and Airbus are also interested in taking advantage of UHF systems based on EPC standards. These tags will be used in the supply chain. The two manufacturers have not spelled out details of how they plan to use EPC tags, but pallets, cases and reusable containers of parts will likely be tagged with EPC labels. One benefit of using EPC technology is that it should be inexpensive due to the high volume of tags and readers expected to be consumed in consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, retail and other industries. —Bob Violino