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The IEEE is about to publish its 802.15.4f standard. This amendment is designed to create a more open, global active RFID standard that is capable of supporting multiple products and frequencies. The first iteration of this standard – 802.15.4a – was overly complex, frequency restrictive and required dedicated silicon (chips) … it was not very capable of supporting the increasingly robust solution sets being offered by the ever diverse vendor community. The 4f amendment directly addresses these limitations and is a critical step in the right direction toward full solution interoperability. The 4f standard is designed to be more open, enabling the use of discrete components from multiple vendors across more active RF frequencies (i.e.: UWB, 2.4 GHz and 433 MHz). It is more capable of supporting hybridized solutions that are leveraging multiple technologies and frequencies.
This means that active RF solutions will become less proprietary and more standardized – a critical stepping stone toward true globalization. Because there is no need for dedicated silicon, more solution types can now be used and interoperate, which will not only provide adopting enterprises with more options, but also enable them to develop more effective and customized systems that are more capable of meeting application and installation requirements. In order to achieve greater globalization and world-wide usability, the 4f amendment will need to be integrated into other global standards such as ISO (which is already in progress). This will help enterprises mitigate risk and ease concerns associated with the investment in and adoption of active RF technologies and their ability to leverage them globally.
Upon publication of the standard, there will not be a tremendous amount 4f compliant product available – Zebra will be the first to market with its DART UWB RTLS solution; however, we expect to see active RF vendors rapidly embrace this standard and begin introducing offerings within 6-12 months. This standard could provide the additional momentum active RF needs to become a truly global solution used throughout world-wide value chains and look forward to the innovation and broader deployment in the years to come.