As most businesses turn to RFID technology to enhance operations and to remain competitive, opportunities for manufacturers of RFID tags, readers, antennas, and related software keep increasing. Venturing into this industry can provide a lucrative revenue stream with lots of future potential. But as much as this sounds like a viable idea, you should be aware that there are standards with which to comply. These standards ensure all RFID systems use the same protocol and work together, irrespective of the manufacturer.
- RFID Standards in the U.S.
- ISO RFID Standards
- EPCglobal or GS1 GEN 2 RFID Standard
- FCC RFID Standards
- Consequences of Failing to Comply with RFID Standards
- Benefits of RFID Standards
What Are the RFID Standards in the U.S.?
Without a synchronized RFID system, businesses would have difficulty incorporating different RFID technologies into their existing infrastructure. To avoid this, the U.S., like many other countries, has a set of RFID standards that guide manufacturers who develop this technology. Since the RFID standards have different scopes, they fall into categories such as:
- Regional RFID standards: These harmonize the use of RFID technology within a given area.
- Line of work RFID standards: For industries that require hands-on regulation, the government or regulatory agency might provide RFID provisions that better comply with the law.
- Global RFID standards: These standards are applicable in every country where RFID technology is used.
Below is a detailed overview of the specific RFID standards stakeholders must adhere to in the U.S.
ISO (International Standards Organization) RFID Standards
ISO is one of the global bodies that ensures RFID systems for industries and various sectors, except electronics, have the same characteristics for interoperability. It’s closely related to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which develops RFID standards for electronics. The most common ISO/IEC standards include:
When creating RFID hardware, ISO/IEC 18000-1 is the first standard to which you’ll refer. It provides guidelines on the design framework and implementation of the RFID system. Also, it specifies the various parameters that RFID system components should meet, including power levels, frequency ranges, data coding, and communication protocols. This standard seeks to promote RFID technology that can work with equipment from different manufacturers.
The ISO/IEC 18000-2 standard defines parameters for wireless communication between RFID interrogators (readers) and transponders (tags) operating at 135 kHz frequency and below. These are low-frequency tags commonly used in industrial automation, animal identification, and access control applications. The tags fall into two categories: Type A and Type B. Type A tags allow the reader and tag to communicate simultaneously. In contrast, Type B tags allow either the tag or the reader to transmit data at a specific time. By defining the commands and protocols for detecting tag signals, this standard eliminates tag collision, which can lead to data insecurity and ineffective tag reading. However, this standard is optional, unlike other ISO/IEC 18000 standards.
If you decide to work with high-frequency tags at 13.56 MHz, the ISO/IEC 18000-3 will provide the communication parameters and protocols. This frequency has Mode 1 and Mode 2, which are non-interoperable and differ in how they protect tag memory access. Mode 1 has a non-password lock feature, while Mode 2 has a 48-bit password feature. Apart from defining air interface communication, the standard defines how the modes should operate without interfering.
The ISO/IEC 18000-4 defines the air interface communication protocol for RFID devices operating within a radio spectrum of 2.45 GHz. It recognizes the availability of two devices that use different power sources in this frequency and covers guidelines for both. One of the modes in this standard is passive tags that work as an interrogator talks fast (ITF) and relies on the energy transmitted by the interrogator. The other mode is battery-assisted tags that function as tag talk fast (TTF). Note that there’s no ISO/IEC 18000-5 because it was withdrawn due to lack of use.
ISO/IEC 18000-6 standard ensures ultra-high frequency (UHF) systems working within the 860 to 960 MHz range communicate efficiently without collision, even if they’re from different manufacturers. In addition, it specifies parameters such as the frequency band within which UHF devices should operate, occupied channel bandwidth, spurious emissions, maximum effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP), modulation, and more. Since there are Types A, B, and C tags in this category, adhering to this standard ensures they don’t collide.
Part seven of the ISO standard focuses on providing air interface communication specifications for RFID systems operating at the 433 MHz frequency band. These devices have a read range of around 1 meter, and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has approved them. They are commonly used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
ISO 14443 is an international standard that sets the rules for contactless smart card technology operating at 13.56 MHz frequency. It defines the proximity within which the cards should transmit data while ensuring accuracy and compatibility across industries. The transmission protocol explores mechanisms such as waiting time extension, data block chaining, and multi-activation.
ISO 15693 specifies the power and communication requirements between a vicinity card and the device reading it. Also, it stipulates the physical dimensions of the card and the commands the reader should interpret. To avoid a collision, this standard ensures each card receives a unique identification number. The frequency for a vicinity card is 13.56 MHz and has a read range of around 1 meter. The common application of these cards is in the parking lots.
EPCglobal or GS1 GEN 2 RFID Standard
Electronic Product Code Global (EPCglobal) is an organization that sets industry standards for RFID systems, particularly in patient safety and supply chain applications. The standard is also known as EPC RFID protocol Class 1 Generation 2. Although this standard has been updated several times, it only covers passive RFID systems. It specifies the communication parameters for ultra-high frequency systems operating within 860 and 960 MHz.
The latest version of the EPCglobal standards is Gen2v2 and has the following specifications:
- Three modes of operation: To give RFID systems the ability to adapt to various environments, EPCglobal standards support three modes: single mode, multi-mode, and dense mode. Single mode is applicable in situations where only a few readers are needed. Multi-mode is scalable to accommodate more readers but supports moderate to high tag readers. With the dense mode, you can use hundreds of readers simultaneously.
- Ability to switch encoding techniques depending on noise: RFID systems compliant with Gen2v2 standards can switch between the FMO and the Miller sub-carrier encoding modes. The FM0 technique works in low noise, and it’s faster than the Miller sub-carrier. But if the noise increases, the RFID system switches to the Miller sub-carrier encoding mode, which optimizes performance in noisy environments.
- The transmission rate of 640 kbps: Gen2v2 RFID systems support a transmission rate of 640 kbps to process extensive data in real-time. Its support for richer data play roads also ensures the tags can accommodate extensive data, including timestamps, additional product information, and even sensor data.
- More commands for tag management: Gen2v2 standards provide a wide range of commands that promote efficiency compared to phased standards. To begin with, the standard supports access commands that handle operations such as reading, writing, locking, and killing tags. Selection tags help pick tags based on specified criteria within a given area. Inventory commands support accurate bulk reading at high speed.
- Passwords of up to 32 bits: Gen2v2 standards enhance security and data protection with its 32-bit password. The length makes it challenging for unauthorized parties to crack or guess. In case of theft or breaches, the standards have a kill feature that disables RFID tags, ensuring the data embedded remains inaccessible.
- Four-tag communication in a session: Unlike the outdated standards, Gen2v2 standards allow up to four readers to work on an RFID tag without data interference or collision. This improves responsiveness because users can execute multiple commands and get real-time results.
- Enhanced data protection with randomly generated numbers: The main concern when using RFID tags is unauthorized parties accessing and modifying data encoded in RFID tags. With Gen2v2 compliant tags, this is not a hurdle because the tags use random numbers that are unique for each communication session. As such, it’s difficult for anyone to guess the numbers or to use replay attacks to gain unauthorized access.
- More space for programming: Gen2v2 standards avail four banks that can be programmed or configured as read-only, read-and-write, or write-once, allowing users to meet varying needs. A read-only bank helps store data that shouldn’t be changed. Read-and-write accommodates data in dynamic situations, while write-only supports data that won’t need modification later.
- Q algorithms: To prevent data collision and data transfer security, the Gen2v2 standard uses the Q algorithm. It works by dynamically adjusting the parameters of the communication protocol, such as the “Q” value, to control how tags respond to reader queries.
- Intractability functions: In situations where privacy is of great concern, for example, in healthcare, the Gen2v2 standard allows RFID tags to hide data portions. With this flexibility, you can restrict users from accessing specific information.
FCC (Federal Communication Commission) RFID Standards
Because RFID systems release radio frequency energy by conduction or other means, they must comply with the FCC Part 15 standards. The standards regulate RFID products used for scientific, industrial, and medical applications as long as they oscillate above 9 kHz. For the FCC to approve RFID products, a manufacturer should:
- Adhere to all requirements stipulated in FCC Part 15 policy.
- Get certification from a Telecommunications Certification Body (TCB) if your RFID products operate within the frequency regulated by the FCC.
- Prepare a technical report as required by 47 CFR Part 2.1033 if your RFID products operate at power or frequency levels that could cause harm.
- Ensure your RFID products have an FCC ID label and statement.
Consequences of Failing to Comply with RFID Standards
When dealing with RFID products, not all standards will apply to you. However, it’s vital to ensure you’re conversant with the RFID standards applicable to your industry to ensure your business is on the safe side of the law. If you fail to comply with the standards that apply to your business, regulating bodies such as the FCC, EPCglobal, government agencies, and industry-specific organizations might disrupt your operations. Some of the consequences for non-compliance include:
- Fines and penalties: Like in other sectors, failing to adhere to the standards that exist to promote the welfare of all stakeholders is a violation that has legal consequences. So, depending on the level of standards violation, you might incur fines and penalties.
- Discontinuation from the market: In some cases, RFID compliance is the prerequisite for venturing in some markets. If you start your business without complying with the requirements, the relevant authorities can discontinue your business.
- Loss of business goodwill: If your customers learn you’re not compliant, they might not be willing to engage with your business again. This is because failing to adhere to the required guidelines endangers their welfare. It also portrays your business as profit-centered without regard for other businesses’ safety.
- Lack of interoperability: Apart from ensuring RFID systems are safe to use, the standards ensure they are operable regardless of the manufacturer. Failing to comply with the standards can make your products unusable for failing to integrate with other compliant RFID systems.
Benefits of RFID Standards
RFID standards and compliance requirements often sound as though they exist to restrict your freedom. However, complying with these standards has the following benefits:
- Universal integration: By ensuring manufacturers adhere to the global standards stipulated by ISO and EPCglobal, all RFID systems can work together and allow seamless data exchange and tracking regardless of location. It would be challenging and cost-effective for users to integrate unrelated RFID systems.
- Data safety: The standards ensure that all RFID systems use the same encryption and security protocols, preventing unauthorized access to data encoded in the RFID tags.
- Saving on cost: With RFID standards in place, you don’t have to develop proprietary RFID solutions from scratch. As such, you’ll save on the initial costs, which can hinder a new business from withstanding market competition.
- Trust from consumers: When consumers know you’re compliant with the established standards, they’re likely to trust your products and recommend them to others. This will lead to increased sales revenue.
Talk to an Expert
There are tons of requirements included in RFID standards, and failing to comply with the ones that apply to your business can have adverse legal consequences. As such, talking to an EE expert for guidance is paramount, given they have years of experience in the industry. They’ll assess your business and advise you on the global, regional, and industry-specific RFID standards that apply to your business.