Recent exchanges off-list (and off-blog) have once again revealed a significant degree of unhappiness in some quarters concerning what appears to be an effectively protectionist approach being taken by at least one major RFID supplier.
I think most libraries now understand that the lack of a common data standard will become something of a problem when the time comes to re-invest in RFID, although perhaps it’s only the earlier adopters who are now discovering just how much “interoperability” really exists in the current market.
That’s why the recent agreements on ISO 28560-2 and the UK National Profile were so important. It appeared then that everyone understood that in order to deliver real value RFID would have to submit to some regulation. Certainly all the RFID companies were falling over themselves to express their support for the programme.
Back in April Chris Hankinson, a student at Nottingham Business School had emailed me about an RFID project which contained the observation that the lack of a universal standard was one of the key barriers to progress. (There were also some great ideas for university libraries – suppliers may contact me for Chris’ details!)
Two weeks ago Dylan Edgar of LibrariesWest – a consortium made up of Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath & NE Somerset and North Somerset councils emailed me to let me know that,
“From our point of view, the new UK profile can only be a good thing. Although we share an LMS (name provided), RFID was not something that was procured jointly. Consequently, we have a variety of solutions scattered across the consortium and we do run into some very real and immediate interoperability issues. Anything that can help with that has to be a good thing in my view.
So, a big thumbs up from the LW consortium!”
It seemed that everyone was marching confidently toward what Stephen Mossop of Exeter University once memorably referred as the sunlit uplands…
And then I received the email I referred to in my last post. Which was, as I said, disappointing. I quote (with permission):
“Apparently, (company A) had indicated to (company B) some time ago that they’d be willing to share their data model, but now they take the view that the data model is commercially sensitive information and therefore are not willing to disclose it.”
Companies A and B are identified in the email but I am not at liberty to disclose their identity for legal reasons. I hope they know who they are because if they don’t, we have a bigger problem than I think we do.
I wrote to another colleague whom I knew had been trying to do pretty much the same thing and they confirmed that they were having the same problem with the same company. Despite repeated requests their letters weren’t even being answered.
The thing that strikes me most about these exchanges is that my two correspondents don’t appear to know each other and therefore can’t join forces to lobby their supplier. People used to do that when I was an MD. Maybe if they did it now three things might happen:
1. The company in question might respond more favourably
2. Other libraries might stop spending money on solutions that may offer a limited future
3. My correspondents might be able to exercise their right to choose what solution they want.
The blog is at your disposal.
It’s just a thought.