An Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers working group that's developing RuBee, also known as IEEE 1902.1, will hold its first meeting about the standard in Boston on Feb. 20, a day before the RFID Smart Labels Conference begins at the same location. RuBee supporters include retailers such the United Kingdom's Tesco, Germany's Metro, France's Carrefour, and the United States' Best Buy, as well as chip suppliers, network equipment designers, and systems developers such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sony.
RuBee networks would operate at long wavelengths and accommodate low-cost radio tags at ranges of 10 to 50 feet. Backers expect the standard to allow for networks that encompass thousands of radio tags operating below 450 kHz and targeting real-time inventory under harsh environments, even near metal and water and in the presence of electromagnetic noise. That's key to RuBee's appeal; getting accurate RFID reads around liquids and metals has been the most significant obstacle to widespread, cost-effective deployment of the technology.
RuBee's an alternative, not a replacement for RFID. Its relatively slow speed makes it unsuitable for tracking numerous moving products in a typical warehouse.
The RuBee radio tags, which will be active or passive, could have battery lives of 10 years or more using inexpensive lithium batteries. Other advantages for the long-wavelength technology are that the radio tags can be low cost, nearly as thin as a credit card (1.5 mm), and fully programmable using 4-bit processors.
The standards setters see RuBee networks filling the gap between the nonnetworked, nonprogrammable RFID tags and high-bandwidth, radiating systems governed by local (802.11) and personal area networks (802.15). Officials expect products based on the protocol in 12 to 18 months.