New RFID Standard Proposed

Philips Semiconductors and Texas Instruments are among the companies pushing for a way to better track material through supply chains.
Thirteen companies have collectively suggested a radio-frequency identification standard for tracking and tracing material through the supply chain. EPCglogal Inc., an arm of UCC.EAN charged with establishing electronic-product-code standards, is reviewing at least three proposed standards and is expected to settle on one by this fall.

Among the 13 are Impinj, Intermec Technologies, Philips Semiconductors, Rafsec, SAMsys Technologies, Texas Instruments, and Zebra Technologies.

Their proposed EPC UHF Generation 2 RFID standard meets international standards, provides a path to low-cost RFID tags and readers, and adheres to user requirements outlined by retailers and the Department of Defense, says Tony Sabetti, global business manager for Texas Instruments RFID Systems, who says there are at least two competing proposals.

EPCglobal's technical committee is expected to review all proposals and decide on one standard by June 28. Its board is expected to ratify a standard by Sept. 30.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers have stated they want the UHF Generation 2 standard, which would make it easier to update information carried by tags as cases and palettes move through supply chains around the world. The current standards, Class 0 and Class 1, don't provide for this capability, nor are they accepted as global standards outside the United States. "Companies want to add additional memory and information to the tag as the product moves through the supply chain," Sabetti says. "They want to know who handled the product, and there are different ways to attach information to the tag as the product moves through its life cycle. Presently, the EPC number must be attached to the tag when you attach it to the product."

The group's proposed standard took a few months to pull together, but the concept has been in the works for nearly a year. The proposals for regulatory allowances in Europe, Japan, and the United States are synchronized so that products built to the proposed EPC UHF Generation 2 RFID standard would likely operate successfully in the three regions. Sabetti said the group, including execs at Texas Instruments, has contacted the Chinese government regarding the would-be standard, but he declined to elaborate.

The ideal outcome is to have the Chinese government choose a compatible standard. China's National Standardization Administration has established the National RFID Tag Standards working group to draft national standards for RFID tags. The group has said in the past it would draw on experiences from countries and organizations that have been successful in implementing the technology to develop a nationally compatible RFID-tag standard.