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EPCGlobal Is De Facto RFID Spec In China, Analyst Says

The chances of success for China's national RFID standard are diminishing each day as the government stays flat-footed in the face of an aggressive campaign by EPCGlobal.

SHANGHAI, China — The chances of success for China's national RFID standard are diminishing each day as the government stays flat-footed in the face of an aggressive campaign by EPCGlobal to see its standard adopted by local manufacturers, according to a recent research report.

"As the RFID standard issue enters a new stage aimed at speeding up the adoption of RFID tags globally, the Chinese government remains silent about where the national RFID standard is heading," wrote ABI Research analyst Junmei He.

China has been working on an RFID standard for years. Industry sources recently predicted that authorities would issue a draft specification this fall, with the hope of hammering out a final version that can be implemented in 2007. The spec will be voluntary, adhere closely to international standards and theoretically be cheaper to use than the EPCglobal system.

However, since most of China's products are exported overseas, its manufacturers will need to comply with client requests to use an international spec. Last month, ISO/IEC approved the EPC Gen 2 Class 1 UHF standard, making it an amendment to its 18000-6 RFID air interface for devices using the 860- to 960-MHz ISM band. China is usually a proponent of ISO standards, but the move hasn't halted work on its own effort.

China is still pursuing its own numbering system, called the National Product Code, which will compete against EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code (EPC). China will also build and maintain its own database with information on products, manufacturers and transport methods, rather than subscribe to EPC's, which will be maintained by Verisign in the U.S.

In the ABI report, He noted that the reality on the ground is China is that manufacturers are leaning toward the EPCGlobal system so they can smoothly integrate into the supply chains of major customers like WalMart. He said EPCGlobal is "seizing the initiative" by giving manufacturers financial, technological and implementation support for EPC adoption. This is making EPC the de facto standard.

"The reality is that for the Chinese government, it is no long important when the national standard will be released. It is late already," he wrote. "More urgent problems are to decide how the government should cooperate or negotiate with EPCglobal; to establish policies to protect the development of the domestic RFID industry; and to secure the benefits of RFID for Chinese tag users in the coming RFID era."

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