Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
I wrote an article on NXP at the end of September 2007 (Founded By Philips – NXP), this caused a friend of mine Paul Chartier to send a private comment to me. Paul is a Principal with Praxis Consultants; the Project Editor of ISO/IEC 24753, which deals with communication between the application and an RFID sensor-enabled device; the Chairman of the CEN TC225 RFID Ad Hoc,. As a result of an email discussion, I managed to persuade Paul to do an interview with me as an opportunity to make vendors and users aware of what is happening on the standards front for sensors.
Holloway: Paul, from our email discussions it would seem that are some issues in the RFID standards world, can you explain what you see them to be?
Chartier: There are two real problems at present. Firstly there is a lack of participation by a number of vendor and user organisations in the ISO standards process. The second is that there is a lack of understanding about the procedures of the two main bodies involved in the specification of standards for RFID, namely ISO and EPCglobal. In fact to some extent you could almost word this as a collaboration challenge between EPCglobal and ISO.
Holloway: Can you provide some evidence for these points you have made?
Chartier: Let me cover the first issue and then come back on the second. ISO is trying to move forward to support sensors with 18000-6C and Savi Technology has an interest in moving the same forward for 18000-7. Nothing else is happening on the sensor standardisation front with HF—where it should—because none of the technology vendors are participating! They like to talk about it, but they don’t seem to want to address the standardisation issue. They are walking into another technological cul de sac as they did with the 18000-6C tag by many of them not providing user memory when many from the bar code world (including some GS1 experts) could identify multiple use cases. As a result, major applications for IATA and the automotive industry are at stalemate because they cannot get the chip that they need.
Holloway: I think your point about HF and, for that matter, Active RFID is very valid. UHF does not fit the bill for everything. Your second point about lack of understanding between EPCglobal and ISO does not sound good.
Chartier: The two organisations are working together or at least they are aware of each other’s problems. The key issue centres around Vendor IP, which is always a difficult issue. In EPCglobal, vendors make IP aware to others taking part in the formation of a standard as part of their membership. The ownership of the IP is not transferred to EPC until the standard has been accepted by the membership. This means that EPC can’t disclose anything to ISO until it has been accepted by its membership—thus effectively making it work behind closed doors! This issue even applies to the joint committees that have been set up by EPCglobal and ISO.
Holloway: But haven’t we been round this issue before with web services and we seemed to get the user/vendor organisations to work well with ISO.
Chartier: Sorry Simon, I can’t comment on that because this is not my area of expertise. As you know ISO has some clearly stated and well-known rules around vendor IP that is put up for standards consideration, But EPCglobal developed their own rules. It is very frustrating, but I do recognise there are different rules and we have to work with them somehow.
Holloway: Paul, what is going to be the effect on organisations who are potential users of RFID sensors?
Chartier: The first issue I see is that there is a narrow expectation that only one frequency band and one air protocol are needed. The other is EPCglobal have promoted their solution so well that their solution appears to be the only one needed. In fairness to EPCglobal, they do not claim to have the only RFID technology. Everyone is ignoring other tag technologies—a quarter of the bar-code applications sold today are closed loop—so users should be able to choose what best fits their needs, not just a single standard.
Holloway: Ok Paul, is there a way out of this mire?
Chartier: I think the time has come for a better understanding of the roadmaps of each side. For instance, there is a working relationship between ISO and CEN1. For RFID, CEN/TC225 AIDC Technology has a responsibility to review various ISO standards and undertake its own developments. While the standards development for RFID technology has been agreed to take place predominantly at ISO, now that we are moving into some application phases, CEN TC225 can begin its activities in earnest.
Holloway: From what you have described this could take some time to sort out between EPC and ISO. Is there anything that could be done on the tactical front?
Chartier: Well we could use the CEN ISO model as a basis and make the cross-over committees write down the roadmap of issues and then get an agreement on which body tackles which issue. But that does not tackle the problem of participation, Simon. We need to attract more users, vendors and consultancies to get involved. The problem is ISO is international; therefore the participants tend to belong to large companies, who are able to fund their employee’s involvement. There is hope in Europe, as CEN committee are starting to look at European requirements and we could look to the EU to help funding for smaller organisations to be involved.
Holloway; Thanks Paul for your candid comments and I wish you success with the standards projects you are involved in. May be this will get a response from EPCglobal or other people involved in the development of standards.
1 CEN is the super-national standards body that sits above BSI, DIN (Germany) and AFNOR (France) and all the other European countries to provide harmonised standards right across all technologies. In French, CEN stands for Comité Européen de Normalisation (hence the letters CEN). In English the organisation is called European Committee for Standardization.