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RFID interoperability still problematic

Absence of global standard for RFID tags means accuracy issues and expense are hurting adoption, industry watchers say.

SINGAPORE--Interoperability issues were high on the agenda of an RFID industry conference here.

Industry experts at the RFID Connect Asia conference are discussing the potential of the recently released EPCglobal second-generation standard established by more than 60 industry players, including Asia Smart Tag, Pepsi-Cola, STMicroelectronics and Tesco.

Based on UHF signals, the second-generation standard ensures that RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and readers work globally. The standard was released in December and has been submitted for certification to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

According to the industry watchers, the absence of a global standard for RFID deployment has resulted in interoperability issues and a technology that is still too expensive to acquire.

Tan Jin Soon, executive director of EPCglobal Singapore, said in his opening address Tuesday at the two-day conference that the new specification will enable products from different makers to work together and, in turn, ensure high levels of data accuracy.

Currently, there are issues of accuracy when scanning an RFID tag using a reader that is manufactured by a different company, he said.

The royalty-free standard will allow tags to be read seamlessly across different countries, as long they fall between the 860MHz and 930MHz UHF bands, Tan said. Without a global standard, nations currently assign varying frequency bands for the use of RFID. This can result in problems while reading tags that originate from a foreign country, he noted.

EPCglobal, a not-for-profit industry organization, recently concluded tests to determine whether there is data degradation when tags running on different frequencies are read. Results from the study will be released later this year, Tan said.

The second-generation protocol will also aid in the retrieval of details about a tagged product via the Internet, resolving the problem of having to squeeze data into an RFID tag's limited 96-bit storage capacity.

"You'll only need to store the product's 13-digits serial number on the tag," Tan said. A reader scans the tag and sends the serial number to the back-end system. The system then automatically accesses the Internet to retrieve more details on the product, such as its expiration date and place of manufacture.

Tan said he is optimistic the second-generation standard will be widely adopted by the industry, which would be an important factor in further driving down the cost of RFID deployment.

Eileen Yu of CNET Asiareported from Singapore.