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10/8/2004
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New Spec Helps ID RFID

The specification serves as a visual identifier, making it easier to differentiate RFID labels from other labels.

Workers in a distribution center or on the factory floor are likely to have difficulty differentiating between product labels that contain radio-frequency identification transponders and those that don't, according to ARC Advisory Group. But a new specification should help.

The AIM RFID Mark provides a way for companies to visually identify RFID-enabled bar-code labels. The specification is designed to be built into labels and can help workers using handheld readers sort out the different label types. The mark will serve as a visual identifier that differentiates RFID labels.

Developed by the AIM North America Standards Action Group under the umbrella of the AIM Global Standards Action Group and the AIM Global RFID Action Group, the mark is a distinctive pattern containing a unique two-character code that defines the type of transponder and data. The first character indicates the frequency and coding ability and the second character indicates the data content and/or structure.

Modeled after the logo that identifies different recyclables, the mark can be printed small and contains specific codes for specific items, says Daniel Mullen, president of AIM Global. "With the recycling logo, people may not know what type of plastic is indicated by a '5' inside the logo, but they do know whether or not their local recycling center accepts it," he says. "In the same way, a worker will know the code number(s) of the RFID label(s) he or she is supposed to read."

The Boeing Co. originally requested the AIM RFID Mark to augment its planned usage of RFID-enabled bar-code labels on its aircraft. The U.S. Department of Defense also might adopt the mark for its labeling standard. Mullen says it will be particularly helpful during the transition from bar-code-only to bar-code and RFID labels to let people know if an RFID label is present on a particular item.

Because of the international nature of business today, it's important to have a single standard for identifying RFID-enabled labels, tags, and packages that can be used and recognized around the world. "There's no international recycling logo standard, for example, and different countries use different symbols to identify logos, which means that a company selling products in those countries must use the local recycling symbol," says Dick Sorenson, AIM's North American standards committee chair and director of product management for LXE. "What AIM has done is provided a single, globally-acceptable standard, and the AIM RFID mark will avoid this unnecessary complexity."

Available on Oct. 15, the mark is free and can be downloaded from the AIM Global Web site .

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