Types of Standards
A useful starting point is to consider the definition provided by the International Standards Organisation (ISO):
"Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for purpose."
In the context of RFID including smart labels the reference to technical specifications or other precise criteria may be considered to embrace four types of standard:
Technology Standards - dealing with the technological features, such as the air interface communications format and data exchange protocols, that have to be agreed to assure compatibility or interoperability in systems produced by different manufacturers or systems providers.
Application Standards - dealing with agreements on the way or ways in which technology or systems are to be used in particular applications to ensure consistent usage in a specified manner. Many devices only require technology standards. However, open systems application standards using data carriers have to ensure that data created at a source has to be perfectly understandable by any, even unknown, recipients. Application standards often set parameters and associated values, which constrain the associated technology standard in terms of performance or other features. The application standard may incorporate the data standard, or refer to an external data standard.
Data Standards - dealing with the agreements on the way data is structured for compatibility and interoperability requirements.
Conformance Standards - dealing with agreements that specify the way in which systems are to perform to be acceptable with respect to particular performance or operational criteria.
Because of the 'radio' or electromagnetic nature of RFID the conformance requirements extend to particular regulatory demands with respect to electromagnetic spectrum usage. RFID data carriers (tags or transponders) and associated systems may be viewed as short range devices (SRDs), sharing spectrum with other short range entities such as telemetry systems and radio alarms. As with any class of spectrum users they are required to comply with requirements concerning licensed or unlicensed operational parameters, electromagnetic compatibility, interference immunity and safety. These regulatory aspects are in addition to the basic technology standards and can differ between countries and regulatory authorities, and may be changed over time. Regulations relating to short range devices can generally be distinguished for particular bands and power levels and are invariably specified at national level according to nationally defined needs. As a consequence national regulatory specifications can often be seen as a source of non-harmonisation when viewing needs for international standards.