I recently attended the Dash7 Alliance meeting in Orlando, and moderated a panel at a well-attended break-out session at RFID Journal LIVE!, where I picked up some important information about standards. (Ouch! Standards... this is going to be a really boring article.) But wait! It might be important to learn... and I will try not to make it boring. I will walk you through some learning I had from the Dash7 meeting and meeting up with GS1 at Live and tell you why I think this information is important for the industry.
Do Standards Bring Value and Why Should You Care?
We live in an integrated plug and play world. That's the marketing hype, anyway. RFID and mobility are designed around multi-enterprise, multi-trade zone, multi-platform and cross-value chain applications. In today's global world, if I want to have end to end applications that add value all the way across the business process, there has to be a standard. EDI, bar-coding, and RFID, all have subjected themselves to the ISO process and emerged with a global foundation that assures users of common data and validated acceptance. With this assurance, enterprises can communicate easily cross-border, cross-enterprise, and cross-application.
Compliance to Standard
If there is a standard, how do I know the firm I am working with conforms to the standard? And why should I care? Dash7 for Active 433; and GS1 for epc/UHF are creating a network of testing labs that can certify your solutions. GS1 set up their network of labs in 2006 and 2007. And Dash7 has launched with MET Labs and will fan out to more labs over the next six months. Firms that subject themselves to the process and pass, get certified - and you should ask them if they have.
How does one get to be a Lab/Certifier and what do they do?
These labs are testing for a variety of demonstrable conformances - such as ISO conformance, device performance as well as the communications standards from the countries the devices
will be sold into.
DASH7 has selected MET Labs as the 'seed lab.' MET Labs then creates a set of methods and processes to review and provides accreditation to other labs that want to be able to certify technology products.
The Market for Standards-based Products
Markets get driven by big trends, and big trends are driven by the big companies, initially. Want to do business with the DOD? Want to do business with DOT? How about Walmart and their powerful network of brand companies? They not only buy standards-certified products, they invest their time in slogging through the standards meetings, because the issue is so important to their business. In fact both Dash7 and EPCglobal initiative had their roots in customer-driven mandates. These are huge markets and you want your tech solutions to be considered in the mix!
The first wave of standards focused on each "club of data and frequencies." The Zigbee guys went their way, the Bluetooth, theirs. The creation of these is not always pretty, as in UHF/epc, or exciting as in ISO. But we have that behind us now. What is exciting though is creating an interoperable foundation and bringing these various frequency and active vs. passive and sensor plays together. Users are looking for the platform with presence - multiple applications on one device with wireless options.
Dash7, in particular, is not only focused on big industrial B2B applications, but also has applications for consumers as well. Once RFID really nails the consumer markets (beyond card clickers and smart cards) with presence on every convenience and conveyance, this market will explode. One example would be tire sensors; and every other electronic sensor in the automobile.
Action Items - recommendation
Recommended action item for end users, universities and labs, and technology firms wishing to standardize: Join the groups.
· Dash7 Alliance is seeking the global user - they have some mega company members already, such as Michelin, Dow and Maersk, as well as members from the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) - to represent the user perspective. They also have some superstar technology members like Identec, Analog Devices, Savi and TI, as well as emerging players like Evigia.
· GS1 has action groups that may be of interest to you. http://www.epcglobalinc.org/what/action_group/groups
A few years back there was a company that kind of lied about their conformance. Word got out - we don't see them in the market anymore. Conversely, it is hard slogging alone "redefining the space" all the time. Emerging markets are loaded with innovative entrepreneurial energy, but eventually, the winning approaches emerge and prosper.
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.