RFID Innovations 2001
London, June 2001
Welcome to the RFID Innovations Conference.
I am Steve Halliday, VP of Technology for AIM, Inc. based in
Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Some of you will know that I am the
convener of the ISO group responsible for creating Air Interface
standards for Item Management (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31/WG 4/SG 3),
others may know that I publish a newsletter every month called
RFID News and you can sign up for this free newsletter on the
AIM RFID web site (www.rfid.org).
I have been involved in the AIDC industry for more than 20
years, and heavily involved in RFID for the last 5 years. Those
of you who have heard me before, know that I normally talk about
RFID from the technical or standards viewpoint. Today, my job is
to help you understand that RFID is a technology that is
available today, and to help you see reality through the hype
that has spread.
It is important to understand that today’s RFID is NOT an
identification method for every item in the world. This is a
solution that has been talked about in recent months, but we are
not able to provide a system to meet this requirement today.
Maybe this will occur in 2, 5 or 10 years, we will have to wait
What RFID IS, is the ability to get more information in an easy
to use manner. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about,
identification of people, or things, tracking of objects, or
some other aspect that requires the easy availability of data.
The advantages of non-line-of-sight, multiple reads, and
read/write are immediately apparent in most systems.
For a long time now, we have been using
bar codes to help collect data to help track our use of
items. The EAN.UCC system has been around now for 25 plus
years, and we have all become very familiar with the bar
code on everything we buy at the supermarket.
RFID is NOT a replacement for bar code. Today, a bar code
printed on a packet of cornflakes is basically free. The
extra ink to print the bar code symbology itself is almost
nothing. The cost of a tag is not free. A bar code does a
great job for identifying an item. The item identification
is a license plate type application, and it does not change
from one packet of cornflakes to the next.
If you consider an RFID tag, you will see the great
flexibility that TAG offers, and the added value that you
can realize by using this in conjunction with your bar code
RFID IS a major adjunct to the bar code system. Think about
the value of a tag on a container, pallet or case were the
cost of the tag is not significant to the value of the
goods, and the ability to reuse the tag reduces the overall
cost impact of adding RFID to a system.
So what do you use RFID for? What is the problem that we are
trying to solve? Identification, tracking and tracing of
goods and people is the definition which I believe best
explains what we are trying to achieve.
is an area that all of the AIDC technologies provide tools
for, to increase efficiency and accuracy in the quest for
better data. RFID provides an extra level of information in
some cases and so it is the key in our quest to get "better
data". The ability to read multiple items simultaneously, to
read and write information, and to not need to see the tag
physically, add a whole new layer to our AIDC arsenal. RFID
provides all these benefits.
Some years ago, I embarked on an exercise to identify the
applications that are suited to RFID. We were able to list
over 50 at that time and I am sure that we did not cover
everything. Since that time, the list has grown. The
potential for RFID is enormous. There are so many
applications that will benefit from this technology, that I
can’t even grasp them all at this time.
As you are aware, and will learn further from the sessions
that will follow these opening remarks, there is a lot of
work being done in the world of standards. We have work on
air interface standards, on data syntax, unique ID, and
application profiles, as well as standards for animal ID,
gas cylinders, and contactless smart cards.
So should you, as a user of RFID technology, wait for these
standards to be in place? The answer is NO, shouted from the
highest building, with the loudest voice.
Most of the major manufacturers who supply RFID equipment
are involved in the standardization process. They are aware
of the progress in the creation of the various standards,
and will be able to keep you aware of what is going on. As a
user of the technology, if you are interested in an open
systems application, you should be able to get an update
plan from your vendor to migrate to the standardized system
when it is published.
BUT, the key here is that you do not have to wait for the
standards to be published. Some of the standards are still
some time before publication, and there is no reason to
wait, especially if your system is a closed system.
I talk to companies that are implementing RFID now, I find
that the Return On Investment (ROI) for some companies has
been extremely short. One company quotes an ROI of 7 months
for a reasonably large system. With typical ROI’s for
projects like this in the 12 –1 8 month range, you can
easily be seeing immediate savings that will pay for the
RFID project before the standards are published in some
Every week I get several questions about the cost of a tag
and when will we be able to have a one cent tag. This is the
wrong question. Tags are not free and we know that the cost
of a tag will come down with time as the production process
gets more efficient and the volumes increase. However, the
cost of the individual tag is the wrong focus for a project.
The focus for a project like this must be the Return on
I have already said we found more than 50 applications, but
the big question is which is the key application, the so
called "killer app". I think without any doubt logistics in
the supply chain is the major candidate for this award. As
time moves on, this is where the large volumes are going to
come from, and this is where some organizations are
concentrating their efforts.
There are already some major applications that are using
RFID. Animal Identification has been available for some time
now, and whether you are talking about monitoring the feed
needs of a herd of cows, or the ability to trace the owner
of a dog when it strays away from home, you can see the
A large user of RFID is the vehicle immobilizer systems that
require a key with the correct RFID tag before the Engine
Management Unit receives the instruction to start the car.
Here at the conference, you have two and a half days of
presentations which will lead you to a better understanding
of the technology. You will hear from people about the
various options for RFID and even more, you will hear from
people who have implemented RFID and the benefits they are
Hopefully you will be able to sort out the hype that you
have heard and understand the realities of today. You will
see that RFID is available now, today and that you can
experience some significant cost savings by implementing it
The final key item is to get educated.
RFID is not a simple subject. Conferences like this are
ideal to help you get some grounding and to meet and greet
the people who are providing the solutions. But what do you
do for the rest of the year? Two suggestions to help you
keep up on the events in RFID, - subscribe to RF
Innovations, the sponsor of this conference, and visit the
AIM RFID web site at www.rfid.org where we have placed many
resources for you to use, including a subscription form to
the RFID News, a free monthly email newsletter.
As I finish this introduction, I want to leave you with
get educated, the key to a successful implementation is the
amount of knowledge you have.
don’t wait. Do it NOW. You can make those savings
immediately, while the industry finds its standards, you can
be making the savings that are available
find yourself a good partner who has experience in RFID and
is able to offer you the right solution.
President, High Tech Aid
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