Standards not laws

I subscribe to a list on LinkedIn where RFID suppliers gather to exchange information and ideas about how the technology can be of benefit.

When I say “be of benefit” I am of course talking about the supplier rather than the client – or so I have discovered this morning.

A company has spotted an opportunity to sell a Vietnamese university an RFID solution. They have already decided that it should be UHF rather than HF because “We are looking to implement a UHF solution for library application so that we can… integrate that solution into our global solution platform.”

Suppliers of UHF solutions are now scrambling to supply their tags and readers in support of this opportunity. One voice suggested that there might be a need to consider the needs of the library and take account of libraries’ tendency to be risk-averse and support standards. The writer has actually worked with libraries and suggests that UHF is not the way to go.

There are over 30 responses to this point now – and still growing. Not one of the companies has mentioned data. All of the discussion is about air interface and communications standards. Even here it seems that the UHF world is in some disarray with this quote in particular catching my eye:

“ISO 15693 / 18000-3 / 18000-6c are standards, not laws.

There are no sweeping rules for which one is the better; recognising that libraries are different and have different aims. What is a good solution for one library is not necessarily good for another library. There are pros and cons with both ISO 15693 and ISO 18000-6c which should be weighted in relation to the those parameters. “


“My company doesn’t support these standards and I don’t care what the library’s needs might be.”

Don’t worry about what these standards are too much if you’re in Europe, North America or most of Australia/New Zealand – but if you’re in Asia you may have some cause for concern.

It’s by no means an uncommon response. The list is awash with views about standards that even I had to look up. Only Paul Chartier, of my colleagues, might be able to tell me what they all are. It’s an RFID-geek’s paradise. But only one respondent is aware that most of the world’s libraries have already invested in systems that need to work with the solutions they are selling – and that ignoring that fact will ultimately result in wasted investment and great unhappiness.

The London conference heard from the company that manufactures the majority of the world’s chips (the tiny pieces of intelligence inside every RFID tag) for the library market that UHF was NOT the right solution. They manufacture chips for all RFID uses so have no vested interest in saying this.

I’m not trying to persuade the Asian market to think again. In fact, if they’re not trying to  integrate with an existing ILS/LMS, they can do pretty much what they like.

Even outside of Asia we are beginning to see the first stirrings of RFID companies looking to extend their reach into LMS/ILS territory but at least these companies have some idea of how their market works. The Asian situation is like asking a manufacturer of yellow paint what colour you should paint your house.

So be careful when you read about these wonderful solutions being deployed in Asia. The company promoting them may be unaware, or worse uncaring, of the needs of their clients.

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