Firms must prepare for RFID

While radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has yet to really make its mark in the Middle East, analyst firm Gartner is already warning users to start preparing for the next generation of the technology.

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By  Peter Branton Published  April 17, 2005

While radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has yet to really make its mark in the Middle East, analyst firm Gartner is already warning users to start preparing for the next generation of the technology. On April 1, three of the leading companies in the RFID market, Intermec, Metro Group and Royal Philips Electronics, said they had jointly developed an RFID chip that complies with industry body EPCglobal’s Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Electronic Product Code Class 1 Generation 2 (G2) standard. The new chip also complies with specifications from the International Standards Organisation (ISO). Another company in the RFID space, Impinj, followed this by unveiling on April 4 an RFID reader and tag system that also conforms to the next generation standard, and Gartner believes these hardware announcements will soon be followed by many more. “The market is now moving towards true globally unified standards for UHF RFID,” said Gartner analyst Jeff Woods. “The capabilities of G2 technology are largely comparable to those of the current generation of products, but they offer incrementally improved performance in all areas.” As well as better performance, G2-compliant RFID systems will also feature encryption, password protection and authentication in order to protect the data stored on the RFID tags and their databases. And, because it is a worldwide standard, G2 will also allow companies to deploy RFID across multinational supply chains, improving efficiency. But Gartner is also warning users to be careful as to which supplier they choose. “The substantial technical differences from G1 technology will radically change the positions of the vendors in this market, and Gartner believes that some of these vendors may fail to make the transition to G2 technology,” it said in an online advisory. Companies should start planning for the general availability of G2 equipment in the third quarter of this year, and “begin evaluating hardware vendors strategically rather than seeking short-term or interim ‘fixes’” Woods said. While high-profile pilot schemes such as that being carried out by Wal-Mart in the US or by the US Defence Department have attracted considerable global media attention, the RFID market is still seen as being in its infancy. Despite this, a number of end- user organisations in the Middle East are believed to be very interested in the technology, according to Colin Summers, regional manager of Intermec Technologies in the Middle East. He said that a drive towards globally accepted standards would help adoption: “If standards are in place, people will be more comfortable in using the systems.”

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