Testing event helps China and Europe take Olympic stride towards interoperable RFID solutions

ETSI Headquarters, Sophia Antipolis, France – 4 May 2009

Fuelled by a new spirit of co-operation between European and Chinese technology experts, a Plugtests™ interoperability testing event has helped to ensure the effective world-wide application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in postal applications.

Co-organized by the China Electrical Standards Institute (CESI) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the first-ever interoperability event for RFID to be held in China took place in Beijing April 20 – 24. The 5-day event was hosted by the China Postal Science and Planning Academy (CPST) and was supported by ETSI's RFID Task Group (TC ERM TG34), the RFID Standards Group China and the Chinese National Registration of IC Cards.

Engineers from all over the world gathered together to test the interoperability and performance of RFID as applied to postal applications. A range of real-life scenarios tested the application of RFID devices from multiple vendors conforming to two major international Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID standards [references 1 and 2 below] and demonstrated the interoperability of devices made to those standards. A world first, as one of these RFID standards is new and devices based upon it have never been publicly tested in this way before.

RFID must operate globally since it is frequently used with objects that move worldwide, such as postal items. It is therefore essential that equipment manufactured by different RFID vendors is interoperable.

Typical applications demonstrate different properties such as field characteristics, tag population, speed and reader density. These properties impose various requirements such as read or write sensitivity and resistance to mutual coupling. Exposing tags of different types from different vendors to interrogators supplied by a range of manufacturers in application-specific conditions determine if there are any combinations that are incompatible.

The focus of this Plugtests™ event was to ensure is a satisfactory level of interoperability between equipment supplied by different vendors, but conforming to the same standard, and also the co-operability of devices complying with the different UHF RFID standards, all operating under Chinese Radio Regulations [reference 3 below]. The event drew 37 participants from 14 companies. Support was provided by specialists in the field of RFID and by ETSI testing experts.

The postal application scenarios centred upon using RFID to identify reusable plastic mail cases, mail carts and mail bags. The true-to-life test scenarios used were challenging because of the quantity and speed of tags to be read. The tests results provided vital information for end-users who wish to use RFID on a global basis and point to a potential for early adoption of non battery-powered UHF tags and reader devices for such scenarios.

Gao Lin, Director of the Standardization Development Research Centre at CESI, spoke of his satisfaction of this event: 'This interoperability test event has helped to evaluate the Chinese, European and international standards, and has clarified to both government and users the state of the art of the RFID industry's development progress. The event has definitely increased confidence in adopting RFID products.' He continued: 'As a Standards Development Organization, CESI has identified new requirements for developing standards and this testing event has also provided us with valuable guidance about how both product standards and test standards can best serve us in our tasks.'

Anthony Wiles, Director of the ETSI Centre for Testing and Interoperability said "This event was an excellent example of European and Chinese co-operation. We faced many technical and organizational challenges along the way but the results and lessons learned have been well-worth the effort".

Earlier in April, a new commercial agreement was signed ETSI and the China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR). This 100% Chinese funded project – provisionally titled GO4IT China – will benefit from ETSI experience in testing technologies in order to ensure global interoperability of evolving communications networks that will serve both fixed and mobile communications and broadcast systems.

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Notes for Editors

About ETSI 
ETSI produces globally-applicable standards for Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), including fixed, mobile, radio, converged, broadcast and internet technologies and is officially recognized by the European Commission as a European Standards Organization. ETSI is an independent, not-for-profit association whose 766 member companies and organizations, drawn from 63 countries across 5 continents worldwide, participate directly in its work.
For more information please visit: www.etsi.org  

About ETSI Plugtests™
As a complement to its core standards-making task, ETSI specializes in running interoperability test events for a wide range of telecommunication, Internet, broadcasting and multimedia converging standards.  Plugtests™ events are open to all companies, organizations, working and study groups implementing a standard.
For information about ETSI Plugtests™ and upcoming events, please visit http://www.etsi.org/plugtests  

About the international RFID standards in these tests
[1]  ISO/IEC 18000-6: 'Information technology - Radio frequency identification for item management - Part 6: Parameters for air interface communications at 860 MHz to 960 MHz'.

[2]  ETSI EN 302 208-1 (V1.2.1): 'Radio Frequency Identification Equipment operating in the band 865 MHz to 868 MHz with power levels up to 2 W; Part 1: Technical requirements and methods of measurement'.

About the Chinese RFID regulation in these tests
[3]  800/900 MHz Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Application Regulation (Temporarily) from State Radio Regulation Committee (SRRC), Ministry of Informatics Industry (MII), P.R.China. Available at www.autoid.org/07/UHF_RFID_Freqency_allocation_of_P_R_China%5B1%5D.pdf

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