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  A Standards Update - Why do we need standards?

Welcome to this edition of a regular column about standards in the Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) industry. This column will be updated regularly to keep you current on news of standards and their impact on the industry.

In the coming months, we will try to educate you on the various technologies covered under the AIDC umbrella as well as bring news of the standardization process and its progress. If you have news about standards that you want to share, or questions you want to ask, send them to steve@hightechaid.com and we will try to incorporate them into the next column.

In the last issue of this column, I tried to give an introduction about standards and gave some examples in the RFID world. In this issue, we will cover the need for standards.

The term standards covers a lot of ground. Everything we touch in our life is in some way governed by standards, whether they are actual standards, de-facto standards, or even just commonly agreed ideas. I mentioned the standards for credit cards last issue, but consider other things more common in our life. How about the size of paper? In the United States we use "letter" size paper for all of our daily work (in most other countries they use a metric size of paper, close to letter size called A4). Think about the problems in paper production, storage, etc. if we all just arbitrarily used a different paper size.

High Tech Aid offers Resources in AIDC technologies such as RFID and barcode as well as NFC and Internet of ThingsThe global home for standards is ISO (International Standards Organization - http://www.iso.ch) where they have literally thousands of standards in about 40 broad categories from terminology to testing, to health care, to railway engineering, to clothing, to agriculture, to paper, and most important to us, to information technology.

ISO joined with IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission - http://www.iec.ch) to form a Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1) with responsibility for the Information Technology side of standards. As many of you may be aware, it is with JTC 1 (http://www.jtc1.org) that the global standardization of the AIDC technologies rest.

In January 1995, AIM met with the U.S. TAG to JTC 1 who agreed to propose the formation of a new SubCommittee at the JTC1 meeting in June 1995. At that meeting an Ad-Hoc group was formed to review comments, prepare recommendations, and a draft title and scope. The Ad-Hoc met in November 1995 and they recommended the formation of the new SubCommittee to JTC 1. The subcommittee (SC 31) was formed with the first meeting in Brussels in 1996. At that time, three work groups were setup within the SubCommittee and since then anothers have been added. The workgroups defined are as follows:

  • WG 1 Data Carriers: This includes all the symbology standards in the barcode world, as well as any future standardization in the data carrier area.

  • WG 2 Data Syntax: The definitions of how messages are stored and created.

  • WG 3 Conformance: The testing of hardware along with the specification of quality for the technologies.

  • WG 4 RFID: All aspects of RFID with several subgroups as follows:

    • SG 1 Data Syntax
    • SG 2 Unique Id. for RFID tags
    • SG 3 Air Interface
    • SG 5  Application Profiles
    • SG 6 RFID Conformance and performance
    • SG 7 RFID Security
  • WG 5 Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS)

  • WG 6 Mobile Item Identification and Management (MIIM)

  • WG 7 Security for Item Management (newly formed in June 2009)

Work is well under way in all these groups, with the first global standards were published in 1999. Participation in these groups is only possible as a representative of your National Body (ANSI in the USA, BSI in UK etc.), though some organizations have applied for and been granted Liaison status with the subcommittee and are able to participate directly in the work.

What does all this mean to you?

From a manufacturer and end user prospective, standards are very important. International standards benefits everyone in many ways. These include: elimination of duplication of effort in creation process, standards compliance will be eased, (one instead of several), and the elimination of duplicate but different standards (national or regional standards that are the same but different).

Next month we will look at the work of SC 31 in a bit more detail.