RFID Makes Its Mark

Is that an embedded RFID tag or just a lump? Soon, workers will be able to tell at a glance.

The promise of RFID is the automatic collection of data. As a carton of goods with tags attached passes a reader installed at a loading dock, the reader logs the tag IDs into a database, so both the shipper and receiver know exactly when the delivery was made.

RFID In the supply chain is still mostly in the testing stage, as suppliers to a few large retailers and the U.S. Department of Defense prepare to tag cases of goods at the pallet level on January 1, 2005. In the interim before the technology becomes ubiquitous, many companies are using RFID-enabled bar codes.

With the growing use these RFID-enabled bar code labels, it may be difficult for workers with handheld readers to differentiate labels that contain RFID transponders from those that don’t. And, as more variations on these labels appear — differing by both frequency and data format and content — workers must decide which label to read.

To aid in quick identification, the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) on Friday introduced the AIM RFID Mark standard, a graphical system to provide a standard way to clearly show the presence of an RFID transponder, its frequency and data structure.

AIM is a global trade association for the automatic identification and data capture industry, including technologies such as RFID, bar code, magnetic stripe and smart cards, biometrics, and electronic article surveillance.

“The AIM RFID Mark will allow workers to quickly and easily identify which labels contain an RFID transponder, whether it’s one they need to read, and whether their reader is compatible with it,” AIM NASAG Committee Chair Dick Sorenson said in a statement. “An AIM RFID Mark on the reader itself will provide a visual cue to which type of labels to read.” Sorenson
is director of Product Management for LXE, a supplier of rugged mobile computers and wireless networks for supply chain applications.

“The AIM North American Standards Group asked for suggestions for the mark from its members, their advertising agencies and the public,” AIM spokesperson Bert Moore told internetnews.com. It evaluated the 20 designs submitted for graphic recognition, the ability to be printed and recognized at about 3/8″ high on a low-resolution printer and the ability to
incorporate a two-character code.

It chose a design submitted by Christopher Decilio, a multimedia specialist for Zebra Technologies, maker of on-demand printing systems.

The AIM RFID Mark has a distinctive pattern containing a unique two-character code. The first character indicates the frequency and coding authority, the second character indicates the data content and/or structure. A provision is also made to identify compatible RFID readers/encoders. Both light-on-dark and dark-on-light versions of the AIM RFID Mark are provided.

“The outside of the graphic will always remain the same. The code inside the logo will change, depending on the tag type and coding authority referenced,” Moore said. For example, the M series denotes tags compliant with Department of Defense uses. M0 denotes the 64-bit form of unit identification, M1 equals the 96-bit form, and M2 stands for the 256-bit form.

There are also an A and B series for different ISO standards and an E series for electronic product codes (EPCs).

AIM encourages all equipment manufacturers and label producers. Graphics will be available free of charge from the AIM website.

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