AIDC’s standards group develops strategic plans to reach a wider audience on technologies such as RFID, regarding not only standards, but also regulations and successful use cases.
March 25, 2022With growing demand for a variety of automatic identification technologies, including QR codes, near field communication (NFC), real-time location systems (RTLS) and radio frequency identification (RFID), the AIM Standards Group has developed a strategic plan to support this growth, educate new users and standardize technologies as new regulations are released around the world. The public part of this effort will be the association’s Standards Marketplace, which will be on its new website, launching in June 2022, to provide information on standards and use cases.
AIM is a global association for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technologies. According to Mary Lou Bosco, CEO of AIM, the Standards Marketplace will serve as a resource for anyone looking for information on AIDC industry standards. She says the association works with AIDC industry members on developing and maintaining standards to help the community better respond to today’s market realities. AIM intends to extend its reach by broadening the definition of its stakeholders. Eligible members include any individual, organization, school, agency, or association with an interest in AIDC technologies, in addition to technology companies.
AIM will celebrate 50 years as an organization in 2023 and continues to grow as technology evolves, said Chuck Evanhoe, Chairman of AIM’s Board of Directors. Evanhoe is also the owner of tech startup Aware Innovations, a company focused on managing and tracking objects and assets. AIM started by identifying things via barcodes, says Evanhoe, such as helping users know that boxes are on a conveyor so they can be routed to the correct truck, or allowing them to identify a packet of chewing gum at the point of purchase.
The association began as the Association of Automatic Identification Manufacturers. More than a decade ago, Evanhoe says, it became a stakeholder organization to encompass everyone from software developers to systems integrators, distributors and manufacturers, as well as individuals, “so that we can give everyone has a view on the ongoing development of standards.” Since its inception, the association has worked with ISO on its standards, such as ISO/TEC JTC 1/SC 31 for barcode and RFID technologies , including those that establish data and media formats to enable the automatic collection of identifying information.
Over the past few years, AIM has found, AIDC technology has grown exponentially in multiple markets. This growth is, in part, driven by the pandemic, and the association has seen an increased need not only for standardization, but also for standards education. According to Evanhoe, “average customers [or consumers] actually use the term “supply chain” whenever they know their products are off the shelf or their prescriptions are out of stock. If there was ever a moment to demonstrate the importance of asset tracking technologies, the pandemic has definitely brought that to the fore.”
To educate potential new users and association stakeholders, Evanhoe says, AIM’s Standards Marketplace will provide access to information about each new standard, as well as use cases from which companies can get an insight. potential insight into their own deployments. “Standards has always been one of our pillars from the very beginning,” says Bosco, “but we’re also about advocacy, community and education.”
Additionally, the association has updated its strategic plan and organizes working groups that focus on creating and supporting standards, especially as they apply specifically to vertical markets. “Whether it’s pharmaceuticals, healthcare, food, or cannabis,” says Evanhoe, “you’ll find that there are other vertical market-specific standards where AIDC technologies are mentioned in reference”. With this in mind, he adds, “We want to become a single repository for these standards, and we want to develop an easy-to-use interactive section on our website”, to make it easy for users to find the information they need. .
The website is being redesigned, reports Bosco, and the standards marketplace will be part of its redesign. She expects the market to grow next with technology and regulatory requirements. For example, in addition to work on the SC 31 standard, ISO has groups called ISO/TC 104 (for freight containers) and TC 122 (for packaging standards), and AIM is a liaison with ISO, “so that we can help them with these applications in these unique vertical markets”, while making the information available to users. Vertical markets could include pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, cannabis companies or the railway or airline industries, all of which are subject to regulations.
Under the new strategy, the association focuses not just on software vendors or system integrators, but on end users. Users of consumer devices may know a technology in certain areas, without knowing the details of that technology. One example, says Evanhoe, is the proliferation of QR codes. For many people, the system is so ubiquitous that there is little discussion or education about the technology behind it. “It just happens,” he says. “Your phone reads it and users may have no idea what it takes to create a good QR code [or experience].”
When it comes to RFID, adds Evanhoe, people may not understand the nuances of the technology, as their experience centers on systems like the Apple AirTag (a device that uses active Bluetooth Low Energy transmissions powered by battery). “But do they understand how RFID technology might work in a retail environment?” does it note, or the different standards for passive and active RFID, as well as UHF, HF or NFC? As the dominance of technology grows, he says, they will need it. UHF RFID, in particular, “is only growing by leaps and bounds,” he reports, “with billions and billions of tags, so we need to keep educating and updating [potential users].”
Additionally, AIM finds that many people in the user community think RFID is a plug-and-play solution, which means they could be frustrated during deployments. By providing the right information about standards and educating users, AIM says it knows the standards marketplace can help facilitate implementation. Users can view use case examples to provide ideas for innovation, and the association hopes to further promote industry adoption and save end users money. “There’s no need to spend money and resources reinventing the wheel,” says Evanhoe.
Focused on the technologies of today and tomorrow, the association has a working group on artificial intelligence technological activities, as well as groups dedicated to the development of blockchain and the Internet of Things. . The standards market will also target regulators to ensure that regulations are issued in accordance with standards that already exist, instead of requiring new developments to meet new guidelines.
Sustainability is something the association will focus on, Evanhoe says, along with other regulatory activities around the world. “We have a lot to do [and] we are excited to see how the industry is developing,” says Bosco. AIM has recently established several new chapters, including those in India, Korea and Japan, and the association has over 400 members worldwide.