Change at UHF certain
Companies we interviewed unanimously agreed that they expect the power laws at UHF to change by the end of this year. The proposed frequency band is 908.5 to 914MHz, with a 4 watt power level (the same as that of the US). The wide range of this band means that dual tag selection can be used - both "listen before transmission (LBT)" and "frequency hopping". LBT is currently used in Europe where only a narrow frequency band is available (868-869MHz). Korea has decided to use both types. Dr Lee commented that Korea is able to move very quickly - the UHF band was proposed in June 2004 and will be made available shortly, but already there are trials using UHF tags where companies have sought approval from the government.
As we covered in last month's issue of our review in Japan, active tags are also of increasing interest in Korea. Here, the most common global frequency for active tags - 433MHz - is not used for active RFID because this is used by amateur (ham) radio. It would seem unlikely that amateur radio will move over from this frequency, but the government are now considering using 433MHz for active tags by opening public hearing for the US export requirements. In the meantime, 315MHz is used, which is not available globally for active tags, but is used in the US where the tags will be shipped with cargo. Other companies are developing active tags operating at 2.45GHz.
EPC and beyond
The EPC standard will be used for supply chain tracking and logistics in Korea. There are currently five protocols available for this at UHF - ISO 18000-6 a and b, and EPC Class 0 (96 bit read only tag), EPC Class 0+ (Write Once Read Many WORM tag), and Generation 2, which is near to finalisation, which will be a re-writeable tag. Globally, Generation 2 will eventually supersede the first versions, in line with retailers mandates for it to do so. However, recently China has indicated its displeasure of not being involved in generation 2 and is considering a sixth protocol. Korea and Japan are also involved in developing such a protocol, which could be based on IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) or the Ubiquitous RFID development work. However, it is suggested in Korea that this may not compete with EPC, so far it is a suggestion and few details have been confirmed. The Korean Ministry of Information and Communication are progressing this.
The Silk Road
Asian countries have been leading the world in their use of RFID smart cards for transportation systems, reducing queues and speeding monetary transactions. This value has been noticed by the consumer, where tens of millions of citizens now carry such cards. Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing and many other cities and towns use such systems. These are based around different standards at 13.56MHz, namely type A and B and also Sony's FeliCa specification which is not an approved standard although widely used. The Korean Electronic Payment Industry Association KEPIA are facilitating the development of a new standard which will be backwardly compatible with the others, and which can be used in any Asian country. Setup in June this year, the system has been aptly named "Silk Road". Already Korea, Japan, China and Singapore have subscribed to developing this and KEPIA tell IDTechEx that Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India have agreed to join the effort.
The aim is a common card which can be used in any Asian country for transport and electronic payments. It has not been determined if the standard will include the e-passport standard. The standard could be a card or a tag in a mobile phone, which will need to be able to handle different currencies. A test bed for the technology has already been identified in Jeju island in Korea. This is a popular tourist resort from citizens of China, Japan and Korea, particularly because it does not require visitors to have a visa. The trial will include using the contactless card for transportation, small monetary payments e.g. in shops and hotels, parking and entrance to shows and museums. USD$20 million has been allocated to finance the trial. Jeju island does not currently have any existing RFID systems which will need to be installed. KEPIA inform us that their biggest challenge in progressing this standard will be meeting the payment legislations of the country the system is used in - each country has different requirements - and ensuring full backward compatibility with the existing systems. Japan have recently also announced their test bed area to ensure it works with their systems. For more information see www.kepia.org.
IDTechEx visited several companies in Korea to cover their developments. For the full details, read subscribe to Smart Labels Analyst to read the full report.