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U.S., U.K. Tag RFID For Scrutiny, Regulation

RFID is receiving some welcome attention this week from worldwide standards groups and governments in Europe and United States.

In one important development, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) will co-chair a RFID Caucus set to take place in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

U.S. government officials are trying to stay on the leading edge of RFID research and development by pushing back hype and better understanding the technology. "It's a collaborative effort between industry and government that will help officials better understand what the technology can and can't do," said Erik Michielsen, director at ABI Research.

Participating on the panel, Paul Chang, worldwide business development for RFID solution at IBM Corp., will focus on consumer safety benefits, as well as possible ways to create a more efficient supply chain to lower manufacturing costs.

In the first of many sessions, lawmakers are slated to dig into sometimes controversial RFID technology to understand how it works. "There's a lot of miss information out there," Chang said. "The concern is if we limit the progression of technology because of some mis-information it could really hurt the industry and consumers."

On the other side of the Atlantic, RFID also has caught the attention of the European Union (EU). Executives at 31 global organizations announced the formation Wednesday of a consortium called Building Radio frequency IDentification solutions for the Global Environment. BRIDGE, which launched in Brussels, secured more than $7.5 million in funding from European Union's Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development to support the project.

The group plans to dedicate three years to research, development, training and demonstration in the effective use of RFID based on standards from EPCglobal Inc., a non-profit group spearheading adoption.

"The project is about research that enables companies to implement RFID in Europe and beyond," said Henri Barthel, technical director at EPCglobal and BRIDGE project coordinator. "We'll look at networks, tags, readers, software and security."

BRIDGE will focus on business research; information services and hardware, such as sensors and RFID tags; and software development. Participants in the program are from universities in Europe and China, including three Auto-ID Labs, solutions providers, manufacturers and others.

"I'm looking for substance and commitment from the group," Michielsen said. "It is one thing to make an announcement that 31 companies plan to work together to reach common goals, but it's another to achieve them."

But BRIDGE has a long impressive member list. Stepping up to push the technology are experts from GS1 standards group, Auto-ID Lab, BT, SAP, AIDA Centre, CAEN, Confidex, CETECOM Spain, UPM Raflatac, VeriSign, Melior Solutions, Unisys, Domino Printing Sciences, and JJ Associates. Retail and consumer goods companies Carrefour, Nestl, Benedicta, Kaufhof, and Sony are involved, too.

In related RFID news, EPCglobal Inc. said the International Standards Organization (ISO) has incorporated into an ISO/IEC 18000-6 standard the specs for its ultra high frequency (UHF) Generation 2 protocol

The long-awaited move comes 18 months after EPCglobal's hardware standard group ratified the Gen 2 protocol developed by more than 60 companies. Since then, EPCglobal has certified more than a dozen RFID readers, tags and integrated circuits as Gen-2 compliant. The protocol was submitted to ISO last year for consideration as an ISO global standard.

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