Tags, RFID and the Internet of Things

e-tech catches up with Dan Kimball, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31

Information technology is all around us and part of our daily lives. Shopping has never been easier, with the swipe of a barcode, voice recognition and fingerprints provide access to buildings, while millions of documents and photos are stored on the cloud. 

RFID label for vehicle ID access and authentication
RFID windshield tags for secured access control and vehicle identification (Photo: www.idplate.com)

What are some of the main projects ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 is working on? 

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 covers automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) techniques. It publishes International Standards for bar code symbologies and radio frequency identification (RFID). RFID is used widely to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information about the objects, such as product identification, point of purchase/use, track and trace and distribution. 

Today, many products are made in one place, shipped to another, stored along the way, handled by different people. This technology is well suited to supply chains with multiple parties and process stages. Additionally, the convergence of AIDC and network technologies defines a large part of the internet of things (IoT). 

“Given the importance of the IoT, and the fact that RFID is one of its primary sources of data, our work is currently focused on adding security to the passive RFID family.” 

As well as providing basic information, read/write RFID tags allow more information to be added as the object passes from place to place. RFID with sensors and GPS can gather useful data related to the object’s condition, location or ownership. 

Unlike active RFID tags, which are powered internally by batteries and continuously broadcast their own signal, passive RFID tags are powered by the electromagnetic energy transmitted from an RFID reader. They are less expensive and suitable for smart labels, supply chain management, and access control. For example, in hospitals, passive RFID labels are used to check inventory and locate specific equipment, manage inventory and medical device availability. 

What are some recent accomplishments? 

“We’ve recently published two noteworthy Standards. The first is ISO/IEC 18305:2016 for the test and evaluation of localization and tracking systems. This could be a real life saver for tracking and locating first responders entering unfamiliar buildings.” 

Focusing primarily on indoor environments, the Standard identifies appropriate performance metrics and test and evaluation scenarios for real-time localization and tracking systems. It also provides guidance on how best to present and visualize the test and evaluation results. This Standard will allow localities to compare competing systems and provide reliable estimates of location accuracy for a given building and technology used. 

“The second is ISO/IEC 29161:2016, Unique identification for the internet of things. This provides a single methodology for identifying the billions of messages travelling the internet, thus allowing users to draw down only those messages that are of interest and ignore the bulk of traffic travelling on the internet.” 

This landmark Standard supports the interoperability of disparate numbering systems, which previously operated in isolation, without exchanging data or interacting with other computer data processing systems. These systems will now occupy a common space in the IoT. 

What trends/upcoming technologies are you following closely? 

“Obviously the internet of things is very high on our list, but security is a close second. We are seeing China emerge as a significant player in the industry. For now its input has been focused on encoding systems that are more friendly to Chinese, Korean and Japanese characters.” 

The Subcommittee liaises with external organizations, which contribute effectively to its work, for example, the Association for Automatic Identity and Mobility, and other standards development organizations, such as the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It works closely with ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC27: IT security techniques, on the viability of security algorithms. 

Find out more about the work related to cyber security and the IoT in the article Why the IoT needs standardization in e-tech issue 01/2017.