Loss of a Great Man – Alan Haberman

Alan Haberman's first claim to fame should be that he was instrumental in bringing bar code scanning to our lives. Although he did not invent bar codes, he lead the charge to get the U.P.C. symbol accepted by everyone and was part of the movement that has made bar code scanning in retail a part of our everyday life. Alan was president of Hills-Korvette Supermarkets and then the CEO of First National Supermarkets and in the early 1970s he became the chairman of an executive committee in the Uniform Code Council (now GS1) to select a standard symbol. The committee reviewed more than a dozen symbols and eventually chose what we recognize today. The first time the bar code was used in areal system was on June 26, 1974 when a pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit was purchased and scanned at Marsh Supermarket in Troy OH. That package is currently in the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History.

Alan was a founder member of the UCC and he became a member of the Board of Governors. His work did not stop with bar codes and he was one of the first people to recognize the importance of RFID. He led an investigation for a University to help solve some of the problems with RFID. He setup an alliance with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and funded the Auto-ID Labs to investigate the creation of a system for retail use of RFID. This later became EPCglobal and the Electronic Product Code (EPC) system was created.Alan in Edinburgh

In 1996 talks were started with an intent to create a home in ISO for AIDC standards. The Uniform Code Council was chosen to be the Secretariat for this international work and Alan was chosen to be the first chairman of the committee. He retained that position for the next nine years, leading the standardization efforts with a force that everyone rallied around. He was well respected in the position and even when some health issues put him on the sidelines for a while, he continued to drive everyone forward from his home office.

I first met Alan Haberman when he was chosen to be the first chairman of ISO/IEC SC 31. He became a great friend and a mentor to me and several others. His straightforward way of doing business didn't always make him the most popular guy in town, but his knowledge and management skills always won through. Alan's interest in the technologies did not stop when he passed on the chairmanship of the committee. He continued to call many of us with questions and ideas. He even acted as a confidant for many of us as we tried to resolve issues.

Alan passed away on Sunday (12 June, 2011) at age 81, he will be missed by many of us. Rest in Peace, Alan.


Where do we go for RFID standards?

In the last post, I tried to give an introduction about standards and gave some examples in the RFID world. In this post, I will talk about where RFID Standards started.

The term standards covers a lot of ground. Everything we touch in our life is in some way governed by standards, whether they are actual standards, de-facto standards, or even just commonly agreed ideas. I mentioned the standards for credit cards last issue, but consider other things more common in our life. How about the size of paper? In the United States we use “letter” size paper for all of our daily work (in most other countries they use a metric size of paper, close to letter size called A4). Think about the problems in paper production, storage, etc. if we all just arbitrarily used a different paper size.

The global home for standards is ISO (International Standards Organization) where they have literally thousands of standards in about 40 broad categories from terminology to testing, to health care, to railway engineering, to clothing, to agriculture, to paper, and most important to us, to information technology.

ISO joined with IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) to form a Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1) with responsibility for the Information Technology side of standards. As many of you may be aware, it is with JTC 1 (Joint Technical Committee 1) that the global standardization of the AIDC technologies rest.

In January 1995, AIM met with the U.S. TAG to JTC 1 who agreed to propose the formation of a new Subcommittee at the JTC1 meeting in June 1995. At that meeting an Ad-Hoc group was formed to review comments, prepare recommendations, and a draft title and scope. The Ad-Hoc met in November 1995 and they recommended the formation of the new Subcommittee to JTC 1. The subcommittee (SC 31) was formed with the first meeting in Brussels in 1996. At that time, three work groups were setup within the Subcommittee and since then others have been added. The workgroups currently defined are as follows:

    • WG 1 Data Carriers: This includes all the symbology standards in the barcode world, as well as any future standardization in the data carrier area.
    • WG 2 Data Syntax: The definitions of how messages are stored and created.
    • WG 3 Conformance: The testing of hardware along with the specification of quality for the technologies. Disbanded in 2009 with the work shared among the other Work Groups.
    • WG 4 RFID: All aspects of RFID with several subgroups as follows:

      o SG 1 Data Syntax
      o SG 2 Unique Id. for RFID tags
      o SG 3 Air Interface
      o SG 5 Application Profiles
      o SG 6 RFID Conformance and performance
      o SG 7 RFID Security (disbanded in 2009 in favor of WG7)

    • WG 5 Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS)
    • WG 6 Mobile Item Identification and Management (MIIM)
    • WG 7 Security for Item Management (newly formed in June 2009)

SC31 is working to create the technology standards that drive the industry forward. As you can see from the list above, they create the air interface standard, the Data standards as well as standards for RTLS and MIIM and Security. Other standards groups create application standards based on this work.

Work is well under way in all these groups, with the first global standards were published in 1999. Participation in these groups is only possible as a representative of your National Body (ANSI in the USA, BSI in UK etc.), though some organizations have applied for and been granted Liaison status with the subcommittee and are able to participate directly in the work.

What does all this mean to you?

From a manufacturer and end user prospective, standards are very important. International standards benefits everyone in many ways. These include: elimination of duplication of effort in creation process, standards compliance will be eased, (one instead of several), and the elimination of duplicate but different standards (national or regional standards that are the same but different).

An introduction to RFID standards

The need for standards has become apparent to almost everyone. As one of the major barcode suppliers put it “…without standards for the various symbologies, we would be nowhere. The existence of multiple variations of a symbology would make our job (manufacturing equipment) near impossible, without even thinking about the problems the end user would have. Imagine if your credit card only worked in a 25% of the POS terminals you used.” The explosive growth of barcode technology over the past ten years is due in part to the willingness of the various inventors of symbologies to put their inventions in the public domain and allow for open standards.

This article covers a hot topic – Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). This technology has been around for a while, but it is only in the last few years that it has started to build momentum and many people are talking about standards in the industry.

The technology involves the use of a tag or transponder and a reader to communicate information from a single bit to several kilo-bytes over a wireless link. The name RFID is actually a slight misnomer as there are many frequencies in use for this technology from around 100 kHz to nearly 6 GHz, a frequency range from just above the audio range into the microwave range. However, all the systems have one thing in common, they communicate over the airwaves.

To start you thinking about RFID, visit High Tech Aid. Under the standards link you will find lots of information about standards in Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). Many of the topics shown there will be covered in greater detail here in the coming posts. You can also get a lot of information about RFID as a technology (as well as other technologies). You can even sign up for a free newsletter, published every month with news about the AIDC world.

You may also like to visit a useful resource on the world wide web, http://www.rfid.org. Sponsored by AIM, as part of the global initiative on RFID, this web site is devoted entirely to RFID and contains some great information for you to use and enjoy including:

• A Primer on the technology will get you up-to-speed fast, helping you understand the differences between the various variations in the technology.
• A Glossary of terms will help you get a grasp on the terminology
• White papers and case studies

AIM took an early lead in RFID with initiatives in Europe, Japan, and USA with participation from all aspects of the technology. Other organizations and standards bodies (like ISO/IEC JTC1, CEN, GS1, UPU, MHI, ETSI, ITRU, SCMLC/ICAC, CEPT, AIAG, VICS, CIDEX, IEEE, ASTN to name a few) are also working towards standardization of RFID in different areas and I will cover this work in the future.