No More Wimpy RFID For Aussies As Govt. Says, "Turn Up The Juice"

Retail RFID use Down Under will no longer be held down by underpowered devices.

After four years of study, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled in late December 2008 that RFID devices can operate with up to four watts of power, the same strength allowed in most other countries. Prior to the ACMA decision, formally published Jan. 15, 2009, RFID devices were limited to one measly watt in Australia.

Boosting the power of RFID readers will allow retailers to use fewer of the devices and enable the units to process more simultaneous data. "Robustness of RFID performance is substantially improved with an increase in the allowable power output," said a statement issued by GS1 Australia, a non-profit organization affiliated with the global GS1 organization that designs and implements supply-chain standards.

Before it would agree to allow more powerful RFID devices, the ACMA wanted proof the 4-watt units would not interfere with other nearby devices operating in the radio spectrum, according to GS1 Australia.

"It's a step in the right direction for Australia," said Louis Bianchin, senior RFID analyst and program manager at VCD Research in Massachusetts. "It will allow them to have better read range with the tags and better performance overall."

Although Bianchin said the move means Australia's RFID devices can be of the same strength as those used in most other countries, he noted it does little to solve a broader problem: The overall lack of global standardization in RFID regarding operating frequency ranges.

"There's no such thing as a world-wide standard," he said. "It's just a zoo, and this creates a problem in the sense that you need to have tags and readers that you need to adjust for the regions you're going to ship them to." In lieu of a global standard, Bianchin said there are RFID suppliers working on "worldwide tags" that perform from one end of the spectrum to the other.