The Return of RFID Certification

By Mark Roberti

The International RFID Institute steps in to fill the hole left by CompTIA when it retired RFID+ certification.

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In 2005, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) convened a group of subject-matter experts to draft a certification test designed to indicate that those who passed had a certain level of knowledge about RFID systems. The effort was supported by AIM Global (the association for automatic identification and mobility), RFID Journal and several leading solution providers.

CompTIA RFID+ was launched in 2007, and several training companies began offering courses to provide the knowledge needed to pass the test. RFID Journal offered training, in partnership with RFID4U, at RFID Journal LIVE! events. Several hundred people took a fast-track course during the events and passed the test.

But CompTIA felt the number of people being certified was too small to continue to support RFID+, so at the end of 2011, the organization officially retired the certification program, leaving the industry without any means of guaranteeing the professionalism of RFID practitioners.

In April 2012, I convened a meeting of subject-matter experts to discuss the prospect of creating a new body to develop a certification test to replace CompTIA RFID+. Out of that effort was born the International RFID Institute. Sylvanus Bent, a software professional who runs Bent Systems, was elected chairman, and I was elected co-chairman. The institute was formally launched in March.

Certification training will become more important as the RFID industry matures. Today, there are relatively few professionals who can deploy various types of RFID systems. As adoption ramps up, the need for more experienced professionals will increase. Some systems integrators are already struggling to hire RFID professionals.

CompTIA offered a single RFID test. The level of demand did not warrant investing in development of additional tests. The goal of the institute, however, is to develop a foundational test that all RFID professionals must pass, as well as additional certifications. While no decisions have yet been made about what those certifications will cover, they may include Near-Field Communication technology, active RFID systems and sensor networks.

Many vendors have their own certification programs, and the institute does not intend to compete with these. The institute's goal is not to say someone can program a Motorola or Impinj reader, for example, but rather the certified professional understands the issues related to setting up a reader and ensuring it works, and understands the other concepts involved in successfully deploying an RFID system.

The International RFID Institute is now recruiting subject-matter experts to develop questions for the foundational certification test. We plan to hold a meeting in conjunction with RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, which will take place in Orlando, Fla., from Apr. 30 to May 2. The institute needs corporate members that will help fund the test-development efforts and individuals who will help draft the tests. It is up to the industry to get behind the efforts to ensure professionalism in its ranks.