Open and Closed RFID Systems
May 20, 2004
Why closed systems are popular
In the absence of standards the take-up of technology is essentially confined to closed system usage, generally characterised by agreement between, and under the control of system planners as to what is used and how it is used. Such systems are often specified within particular organisations for use by those organisations in a way that is effectively under their control. For example, a company may agree a pallet-tagging scheme that uses a particular type of RFID tag and associated reader / data transfer system. Where the company has a number of divisions or associated companies and there is movement of pallets between them an agreement may be made to use the same pallet tagging / reader system in each organisation concerned. The agreements are internal or between the respective organisations and as such they are effectively closed by the system specification and associated agreements. A client company or companies handling the pallets may wish to exploit the tag facility by acquiring appropriate reader systems. In such circumstances the system specification has to be acquired from the originating organisation or another system user. Large or even very large closed systems can emerge in this way. This is a useful and significant feature of technological development in which the exploitation of technology by enterprising organisations provides visibility of applications potential and the prospects for wider use.
Moving to open systems
If the usage evolves to an industry level, the system specification may be accepted as a de facto standard, thus opening up the system usage on a wider scale. However, within this evolutionary phase other organisations within the same industry may adopt different systems for achieving the same functions on an internal or restricted basis, similar to the initial intervention. Competitive opportunities, technological developments and product diversity each contribute to the diversity of systems subsequently adopted on closed system basis.
Commonality between closed systems
Where system commonality is recognised as a basis for improved inter-organisational functions and efficiencies, a collective body may see the need to agree the form that the system commonality should take. In other words agree a standard that would allow universal or open system usage. The need for commonality may be expressed in terms of data, technology, conformance or application requirements.
All pervasive RFID
The relevance of RFID, including smart labels, to virtually every sector of industry, commerce and services where items and data are handled points to the need for appropriate standards. Such standards will better support closed system applications and facilitate open systems usage through the availability of published specifications and supporting information. Where standards are harmonised or structured as international standards the open systems opportunities relating to global trade and data exchange can be significantly increased.
Key attributes for standards
Stemming from the commonality features are the attributes that distinguish the importance of a standard, not least of which is the impact they can engender with respect to technology take-up. Before considering the standardisation issues for total asset visibility it is useful to reaffirm the importance of standards by considering the benefits that standardisation has to offer.