RFID Standards and Regulations
RFID standards are developed and issued by international, regional, national, and industry specific entities. The more global the standard, the more entities are involved in the development. Very often, a standard issued by one entity is applicable to a standard being developed by another entity.
RFID standards are created to:
1. Help to ensure that products inter-operate between different entities (commercial, government, etc).
2. Provide guidelines in which to develop complementary and interoperable products (tags, readers, software, and accessories).
3. Broaden markets and thereby encourage competition which should result in lower prices for users of RFID products that adhere to standards.
4. Increase confidence in new technologies.
There are standards relating to different aspects of RFID:
- Air Interface Communications protocol standards typically define how the reader and the tag 'talk' to one another. This includes the:
1. Physical characteristics of the radio communication sometimes called the 'physical layer'
2. Structure of commands and responses.
3. "Anti-collision" algorithm or method of detecting and communicating with only one tag when more than one tag is present.
- Data content standards describe how information is to be formatted, such as what is stored on an RFID tag.
- Device communication standards explain how data is communicated from the reader to computer.
- Application Standards illustrate how products are to be used, such as where do I place label.
- Conformance standards provide instructions on how a specific device is to be evaluated to ensure it complies with a standard.
Many RFID Systems have their standard categorized as "Identification cards" or "Contactless integrated circuit(s) cards". There are specific RFID standards for the identification of tires, wheels, freight containers, reusable plastic containers, and even animals. All of these types of standards must be considered and adhered to when designing a product, such as a RFID Tag or a RFID Reader. Additionally, many products support more than one standard.
The leading bodies issuing RFID related standards are:
IEC - International Electrotechnical Commission
ISO - International Standards Organization
GS1 - EPCglobal
JTC 1 – A joint committee of ISO and IEC (Joint Technical Committee)
CEN - European Committee for Standardization
NAFTA - North American Free Trade Agreement
AAR - Association of American Railroads S-918 mandated standard for automatic equipment identification.
AIAG - Automotive Industry Standards Group; includes Tire and Wheel Label and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Standard (also known as AIAG B-11)
ATA - American Trucking Associations standard for automatic equipment identification.
ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials
IATA - International Air Transport Association
Organizations that issue Radio Frequency standards
ETSI - European Telecommunications Standards Institute
FCC - United States Federal Communications Commission
ERO - European Radiocommunications Office
Standards have and will continue to have tremendous effects on the way companies do business throughout the world. It is typically in a company's best interest to use products that adhere to standards when possible or even participate in the development of standards. Companies that don't participate often have to change business practices after a standard has been ratified and are left playing catch-up with those that defined it.
Ultimately, what makes a true standard is who adopts it. The US Department of Defense and some of the largest companies in the world have issued RFID Mandates that encourage the use of RFID technology and what RFID standards to use.
As many RFID standards are still being developed and even more being updated, it is important to check the governing authority websites for the most up-to-date information.
Depending on the region of the world, there are different governing authorities that set regulations regarding the use of radio frequency devices, and therefore RFID. For example, there's the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in the US and the ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) in Europe. This includes frequency spectrum, output power, and a lot of other subtle technical details. Is it important that the components of the RFID system are certified for the region in which it is operating.