RFID Standard Expands Its Reach

ISO accepts EPCglobal Inc.'s Gen2 standard, which may ease buyer concerns about RFID hardware adoption.

By Bert Moore

In July, the International Standards Organization (ISO) announced that it had adopted EPCglobal Inc.’s Gen2 standard for radio-frequency identification (RFID) hardware. According to EPCglobal, Gen2 (the full name of which is the UHF Generation 2 Air Interface standard), directs manufacturers of RFID hardware during hardware design. Gen2 was added as Amendment 1 to ISO/IEC 18000-6 as the Type C standard for ultra-high-frequency (UHF) RFID.

EPCglobal expects the recognition “to accelerate the uptake of RFID in various supply-chain and related applications,” the group says. It reports that Gen2 was “initially developed by more than 60 of the world’s leading technology companies and describes the core capabilities required to meet the performance needs set by the end-user community.”

PMP News asked Bert Moore, director of IDAT Consulting & Education (Alpharetta, GA) and a member of the REG (RFID Experts Group), what such recognition means for pharmaceutical and medical device packagers. He offers the following report:

The publication of this Amendment (typically known as Gen2 UHF) is indeed significant—but it has significance beyond the realm of EPCglobal coding and marking.

While the Amendment does include EPCglobal’s coding conventions, the document acknowledges other possibilities as well. Gen2 UHF incorporates other, existing ISO and ISO/IEC standards that identify the intended use of the tag (e.g., pallet, carton, item), the code assignment authority (e.g., EPCglobal, HIBCC), and may also indicate the tag’s data content and structure.

Because Gen2 tags can be encoded with virtually any internationally recognized coding scheme (manufacturer ID and data), theoretically the 14-digit GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) incorporating the National Drug Code (NDC) could be encoded directly. This would make the data carrier transparent to existing host software. In other words, whether entered by key or read from a bar code or an RFID tag, the data could be processed by the host in exactly the same manner.

The benefit of the EPC system is the use of a serialized GTIN, an essential component in developing a usable e-pedigree system. It is possible to add a serial number to the existing GS1 GTIN—the AI 21 in GS1 Application Identifiers. However, those decisions are best made by industry associations such as HIBCC, HDMA, PhRMA, and others.

The inclusion of provisions that allow the use of the same Gen2 UHF tag for a wide variety of applications was the result of the ISO/IEC review process. The significance of this flexibility in coding methods is that more applications can be served by the same tags and readers. This could help increase production volumes, which could in turn eventually result in lower costs.

Regardless of the path chosen—EPC, GS1, or something else—the publication of this document means that companies can proceed to purchasing tags and hardware with greater confidence.

There is a caveat, however. The Gen2 Amendment includes reader provisions that have not yet been fully implemented by all manufacturers. Dense reader mode is the most notable single provision not widely followed.

Dense reader mode is a special configuration provision designed for applications that will employ many readers in a limited area, such as at-dock doors. Dense reader mode is designed to reduce conflicts among readers and spurious reads of tags from adjacent reading locations. Anyone looking at readers today should be sure there is a migration path provided for dense reader mode and other Gen2 provisions.

For more information on Gen2, now known as Amendment 1 to ISO/IEC 18000-6, the Type C standard, or on EPCglobal Inc., visit http://www.epcglobalinc.org/.


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