The Standardization Administration of China has created a working group
that will establish a national standard for radio frequency identification tags.
Called "electronic tags" in China, these small transmitters--essentially
high-tech bar codes that can be scanned from a distance and even through the
walls of boxes--are seen by many as the key to a far more efficient supply chain
than is achievable today.
There is no single standard for RFID. The SAC said that it will try to draft
its standard so that it will be compatible with similar technologies.
RFID companies are likely to closely monitor how the standardization process
moves forward. Recently, the Chinese government demanded that the Wi-Fi chips
sold in the country contain an encryption standard controlled by 11 local
companies. To sell Wi-Fi parts in the large and rapidly growing market in China, foreign companies
necessarily have to partner with Chinese companies or
license the technology from them.
With manufacturers and distributors scrambling to meet those retail and
military mandates, research firm IDC said it expects RFID spending for the U.S. retail supply
chain to grow from US$91.5 million last year to nearly US$1.3 billion in 2008.
Privacy advocates, however, assert that the radio-tag technology could allow
companies to track individuals. Although many in the industry have said this is
more difficult than it sounds (RFID tags can be disabled by a trip through a
microwave), some companies have backed away from trials.
Another controversy with RFID is finding companies to make the tags. Intel, IBM and others are very
interested in the technology, but because it will allow them to sell more
servers and software for managing networks of tags. The RFID tags themselves
will only sell for a few cents when volume production begins.
China is based in Beijing. CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to