U.S. officials favor global RFID standard

International groups tackle the issue

As people find more uses for radio frequency identification technology, policy-makers and industry officials say a global standard is needed to ensure interoperability and lower costs. Several groups are now actively developing technical standards for RFID, a technology that allows companies such as Wal-Mart and agencies such as the Defense Department to track inventories.

EPCglobal, a nonprofit international consortium, has developed specifications for RFID tag placement, coding structure, data and interface systems. The International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Committee have formed a joint committee to develop RFID standards.

U.S. officials say they want to ensure that such organizations don't produce too many conflicting standards that would be burdensome for RFID manufacturers.

"Our approach in the department is to favor the development of standards that are market-oriented with industry input," said Dan Caprio, deputy assistant secretary for technology policy and chief privacy officer at the Commerce Department.

Stewart Verdery, former assistant secretary for border and transportation security policy and planning at the Homeland Security Department, said at an RFID conference last week that DHS is expanding its contacts with international standards groups.Verdery is now a principal at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, a public relations firm based in Washington, D.C.

Setting standards will become more important as RFID uses grow, said Bill McDermott, president and chief executive officer of SAP America, which is developing RFID applications. Some analysts say the RFID market's value could top $4 billion in the next three years.

The U.S. government should be involved in helping the international community set standards, McDermott said, but government officials should not base decisions on privacy fears that could stifle the technology's development.

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