Will Bibliotheca’s merger with Intellident hasten the adoption of data standards?

Yesterday I reported the latest merger in what has been a fairly volatile library market of late. The common factor would appear to be Bibliotheca’s relentless progress toward becoming the major player in the global RFID market. In the UK last year they dissolved their existing supplier arrangement with D Tech prior to setting up shop at Axiell’s premises in Nottingham.

Now, in rapid succession, they have set up new subsidiaries in both the US and the UK – with ITG and Intellident respectively.

We should not read too much into the fairly rapid disposal of Intellident by Chamonix. It was never likely to be a long term relationship and the alliance with Bibliotheca will certainly reassure all those who speculated on the possibility that Intellident’s future may lie back in the supply chain, rather than in libraries.

All three companies have enjoyed great success in their home markets and all have been very much “on message” so far as taking RFID development forward. ITG and Intellident have both been strong advocates for a common data standard and both have been promoting ISO 28560-2 as their preference for future installations for some time now. A view recently endorsed by NISO in the USA as it was back in 2009 by the UK’s BIC organisation.

Despite the issue having been largely ignored by UK librarians the issue of data standards suddenly forces its way back onto the UK agenda. In order to rationalise software development and hardware supply clients of Intellident and Bibliotheca there will at some point need to be a rationalisation of the data models in use at client sites. Axiell clients in particular will pose some additional problems since DS used a different model to that used by Bibliotheca.

So a decision will have to made soon about which model should be adopted for future clients.

Members of the UK’s RFID Alliance – which included both Bibliotheca and Intellident – have already declared their support for ISO 28560-2 and the UK data model. Logically that suggests that this would therefore form a common foundation for all future installations. Looking globally this makes even more sense as major markets gear up to invest in RFID.

Are UK librarians about to finally realise why the rest of the world did not follow their example by spending heavily on proprietary solutions? How will the UK’s army of early adopters respond?

As the English Football Association discovered yesterday, sometimes the world takes a different view of how things should develop…

3 Comments

  • Shai Robkin

    A couple of corrections are in order here. First, neither ITG nor Intellident are subsidaries of Bibliotheca. All three companies now have common ownership and all share equally in the management and future direction of group. It is because Bibliotheca has the largest global footprint while ITG and Intellident have focused almost exclusively in their home markets of the US and UK respectively that it makes sense for Bibliotheca to be the foremost brand name.

    Second, and more importantly, is the matter of data standards, particularly given the upcoming decision of NISO. It is true that ITG has been a strong advocate of standards. However, we have never stated a preference for ISO28560-2. In fact, for both technical and practical reasons, we ITGers (now Bibliotheca ITGers) believe that for North America, ISO28560-3 (Danish Model) makes a lot more sense. ITG never used ISO28560-3 in its RFID installations, using instead a model that closely resembles the model used by 3M. However, there are hundreds of libraries in North America that are successfully using the Danish Model while not a single one, at this time, uses ISO28560-2. If ISO28560-2 offered technical advantages, it might make sense for libraires in North America to move towards a model that has never been used here before. In the absence of such an advantage (in fact, ISO28560-3 has much going for it), it makes the most sense to go the way that North American libraries have already adopted.

    Shai Robkin
    CEO, Bibliotheca ITG

  • admin

    Hello Shai

    Thank you for pointing out my error. I was indeed guilty of using shorthand in describing the relationship between the three companies but, as you say yourself, the leading brand globally will be Bibliotheca and the group – in the UK at least – ia already using the marketing “clout” of the brand to emphasise the global reach and size of the new organisation which is what I failed to express adequately.

    I confess that the second part of your comment was more surprising as I had previously been happy to receive emails from other members of the ITG team of a congratulatory nature that I had – wrongly – read as being an endorsement for the UK (and Australian) position.

    As I have always said I’m not especially advocating 28560-2, or indeed 28560-1 and -3 – I am fairly sure in fact that the standard will be seen to have been somewhat over-engineered in the longer term. My primary concern is that shared by NISO and expressed in their public consultation document:

    “Allow for true interoperability among libraries; that is, a tag in one library can be used seamlessly by another, even if they have different suppliers for tags, hardware, and software.”

    So long as a market – in your case the USA – decides to use a common data model that aim is more likely to be met but of course each market must make its own decisions. I note that the aforementioned NISO document contains the fairly unequivocal statement that.

    “It is the recommendation of the NISO RFID Revision Working Group that ISO 28560-2 be adopted in the United States for Library RFID Applications.”

    which suggests that there may be some way to go before the US reaches consensus?

    If I may also make a small correction to your correction – I’m not entirely convinced that 28560-3 is quite the same as the Danish Data Model. Granted it is similar and was the starting point for the Working Group that designed ISO 28560 (chaired by the Danes) but I think we risk confusing the market if we use “ISO 28560-3” and “DDM” as interchangeable terms – in much the same way as using “RFID” as interchangeable with “Self Service” has led to so much misunderstanding of the extent to which using the technology changes the way the entire collection is managed – not just circulation.

    You are quite right in saying that not a single library in North America uses ISO 28560-2 – in fact there is only one in the UK – but then they were only published a few weeks ago. I suspect that not a single library in North America is actually using ISO 28560-3 either – although there will be many, as there are here, using the DDM.

    I think the key point here is that markets – nations indeed – need to decide on a common standard if their libraries are going to be free to exercise real choice. I saw the merger as a positive move for the UK market and, in my enthusiasm, wrongly extended that enthusiasm to the US, for which my apologies.

    I should perhaps be clear in stating that I am aware that Bibliotheca AG have announced their intention to support both forms of ISO 28560 taking account of local preference.

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