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Mar 09, 2018

Connections Summit Brings RAIN RFID, NFC, and AIDC Together

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Until now, it has seemed that different RFID and AIDC technologies, as well as the organizations that represent them have resided in their own silos. Both RAIN RFID and NFC have been focusing on their own applications and they don’t seem to have much in common. At the same time, both technologies have been quite distant from all the discussion surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT).

But as a matter of fact, the two technologies have a common goal: they strive to be means for connecting items to the cloud. And the technologies don’t really compete against each other. So, it makes perfect sense that the two industries started to pull into one direction. That is why the RAIN RFID Alliance, the NFC Forum and AIM Global joined forces to arrange the first Connections Summit at the Google campus in Sunnyvale, California.

Connections Summit 2018 Attracted Excellent Attendance

The Connections Summit brought together the RAIN RFID and NFC communities, as well as a lot of curious visitors, into a day full of presentations and panels that covered various aspects of these technologies. Overall, there were over 450 people participating, which I think is a huge success. The presentations covered the host Google’s view of the IoT, IDTechEx’s market information, and numerous case studies highlighting the use of both NFC and RAIN RFID. It was clear that RAIN RFID, NFC, BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy) and other wireless technologies, as well as optical codes have their own benefits and uses. There are some overlaps, but the overlapping application areas are shadowed by unique benefits of each technology.

Intranets of Things is not True IoT

Even if each data collecting technology has its own benefits, there are also shared development needs in the broader identification and IoT industry. In many presentations and discussions, the questions related to the collected data. There is a clear need for common standards on how to point the ID codes to actual data in the cloud (the digital twin). Currently, each technology relies on different methods and standards, and in many cases, applications are company-specific. The current Internet of Things (IoT) is actually a number of separate intranets of things, offering very little meaningful IoT data available “in the internet”.

Data Sharing Requires Determining of Ownership and Privacy

In order to move from the intranets to real IoT, data sharing standards are needed. The topic is complicated: In addition to pure standardization, also questions of privacy and data ownership have to be addressed. What part of the data is owned by the owner of the item? What is owned by the organization collecting the data? And who owns the data that is aggregated from multiple sources? The discussion has started, but the IoT industry has a long road ahead before all these questions are solved.

So, what is the verdict? Did the event work out? Yes! There was definitely a need for this kind of cross-pollination. Everyone I talked to at the event emphasized that they had learned a lot. I am sure that this event was not the last of its kind, I am looking forward to the next one.

Jan 27, 2016

RFID Companies Should Stand United to Defend the RFID ETSI Frequencies – We Are Not Out of the Woods Yet

Listen up now Alien, Avery Dennison, GE, Honeywell, Intel, Impinj, NXP, Metro, Smartrac, SML, SATO, Tesco, and Zebra. You have a world of hurt coming in – the ETSI UHF RFID band might get cannibalized, and you cannot afford it. We are facing a serious situation where other technologies may cripple the already narrow RFID ETSI band. Read on to learn more about what you should do to defend your business.

AIM and RAIN are alert already, but more industry collaboration is needed to defend the ETSI RFID frequency band from other interested parties

RFID Is a Niche Technology Compared with WiFi

WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth are all great technologies, with trustworthy standards and powerful industry alliances behind them. UHF RFID is a hobby in comparison. How many people on the planet have ever heard about RFID, or of the RAIN Alliance for that matter?

European RFID companies and potential end-users already lost one fight a long time ago. Just compare the ETSI 865 to 868 MHz band to the FCC 902-928 MHz ISM band. Some difference there – how many channels was that? Luckily we Europeans got away with 2 Watts ERP anyhow.

WiFi Stretching Down to Sub-gigahertz Area

Next up: the ETSI RFID band may be crippled by other technologies, at least if we ask the WiFi consortium. The WiFi consortium with its 600 member companies is completing its mission, doing the dance and WiFi HaLow is being lobbied for a sub-gigahertz band to operate in, potentially on top of ETSI RFID. To make the situation even more alarming, RFID companies are not presented well enough in the ETSI workgroups where the hard work is done. This is where industry collaboration would make a difference.

LBT Would Downgrade the Position of RFID

A simple resolution of sharing the band is to put Listen Before Talk (LBT) in place and use RFID only if there is an available channel. Well then, how would that modified sales pitch is going to sound like to your customers who are concerned about the RF reliability and availability? Do note there are only four ETSI RFID reader channels available!

“Yes, well, basically, there is no problem.”

In the worst case, the IoT of non-powered devices would be postponed in Europe by a few decades. All the previous pain related to Round Rock and the Japan 950 MHz band change are peanuts compared with this. The EU business covers a 30% share of the global RFID market – this would hurt us all bad. We may all be destined to walk the niche path unless we act and stand united.

RFID companies and associations cannot afford to bury their head in the sand when it comes to standardization

The New 915-921 MHz Band Is Needed and Proposed, but Not Approved Yet

The good news is that the new band 915-921 MHz in Europe may be opening up for RFID in the future. The proposal was already made in 2012 ETSI TR 102 649-2 V1.3.1 with an update ETSI EN 302 208-2 V2.1.1 in 2015. This is absolutely a positive issue with the work item REN/ERM-TG34-264 now in the “Final Draft for Approval” phase. How are You currently supporting this noble mission?

Get Proactive in Defending Your Business

AIM is alert already, and we have smart people engaged in this work. Still, more support is needed: join ETSI, join RAIN Alliance, support AIM, support GS1, and do assign your brightest to work on the ETSI ERM TG34. We are not out of the woods yet. Spare no Dollar, Euro, Yen, nor Yuan – Sharing the 866 MHz RFID band is not a concern of Europe alone; it could impact the global RFID business severely!

Do also make sure your representative is in the right room when it’s time to vote.