Sensing a Sensor Censor

As retailers and manufacturers start bridging the gap between passive and active RFID chips, one RFID consortium is cautioning vendors to watch their mouths when talking about sensors.

The self-appointed sensor censor is the nonprofit SAL-C (Smart Active Label Consortium), which has about 20 members from the RFID manufacturing community.

The only correct use of the word "sensor," according to SAL-C, is when discussing a device's ability to "sense and report the status and value of environmental and physical attributes such as temperature, humidity, gases, radiation, temper, vibration, shock, etc. Such sensors may communicate by many different means, from screen displays to wired and wireless networks," according to a statement the group issued.

Vendors have been using the term to mean a wide variety of things, including equipment that scans the tags and even the tags themselves, said Baruch Levanon, SAL's chairman.

"You need to have a common language," Levanon said. "Otherwise, it creates a mess and confusion in the industry."

The group quoted board member Bob Zaccone (who is also the vice president of vendor Graphic Solutions International) as saying that the confusion has already started to hurt the industry.

"We actually had a passive tag manufacturer say they didn't need to consider involvement in environmental sensor standardization as they were already leaders in the 'sensor' market, by which they meant RFID tags," said a statement attributed to Zaccone.

"This shows how differing understandings of the terminology can have a direct adverse impact on speed of adoption and the bottom line."