Early RFID adopters are excited by the Gen 2 spec not for any leap in functionality but for its ability to become a global standard.
DALLASAt this weeks RFID World conference here, theres no question that Generation 2, the UHF (ultra high frequency) air protocol for tags and readers, is garnering major acceptance.
The specification, ratified by standards forming body EPCglobal Inc. in 2004, is being adopted on a wide scale by customers and hardware manufacturers.
Early RFID adopters like DHL, Michelin, Tandy Brands and Daisy Brand are on board with Gen 2, either currently using products or in the process to upgrading.
Hardware vendors are also embracing the spec. To date, two major RFID chip manufacturers have built Gen 2 into their products, as have about a dozen different reader manufacturers.
Those numbers become exponential, given the multistage process of putting together RFID tags. The two chip manufacturers products are in use by about 30 or 40 tag vendors, according to Sue Hutchinson, director of industry adoption at EPCglobal and a facilitator of the Hardware Action Group, which put together the Gen 2 spec.
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However, the real star quality with Gen 2 seems to be its ability to become a global standard (with the help of the International Standard Organization) versus any real leap in functionality.
"[Gen 2] is mandated by Wal-Mart but not because of any advantage," said Jim McMasters, senior vice president of IT at Tandy Brands, based in Arlington, Texas. "Its not worth the fanfare. Its more about continued good relations with our customer [Wal-Mart]."
The issue, according to McMasters, is that there is no real increase in capabilities in moving from Gen 1 to Gen 2, "though others might feel differently," he said.
Daniel Mullen, president of the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility, a trade association that represents reader, tag and bar code manufacturers, as well as industry customers like Michelin and DHL, is a believer in the Gen 2 standard. But he agrees that the functionally upgrades are no great shakes.
"There are some improvements to deal with multiple tags in the field, and some guidance on its use in the supply chain, though thats not part of the spec itself," said Mullen, who is based in Warrendale, Pa.
"[Gen 2] is pretty consistent with the past; not so much has changed from the past."
According to Mullen and others, the importance of the standards is its ability to drive user adoptability through standardization. To the end, Mullen has been working with EPCglobal to advocate that Gen 2 is in step with ISOs tag and reader standard.
"Its not a standard if there are two different documents," said Mullen.
Gen 2s functionality is designed to be "light years ahead of Gen 1," with better read rate performance, better write performance, a lower incidence of so-called ghost reads and more overall security, according to EPCs Hutchinson.
Is there a generation gap?