What is RFID?
Before we talk about RAIN RFID, we should first define RFID. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a generic term that refers to using radio waves to identify objects. There are many types of RFID but when someone says RFID, they are often referring to RAIN RFID specifically.
What Does RAIN RFID Stand For?
According to the RAIN Alliance, the word RAIN is an acronym derived from RAdio frequency IdentificatioN. It is intended to reference the link between UHF RFID and the cloud, where RFID-based data can be stored, managed and shared via the Internet. A RAIN RFID solution uses a reader to read and write a tagged item, manage the data and take action.
3 Defining Characteristics of RAIN RFID:
1. RAIN RFID uses only ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio waves. Other frequency ranges, such as low-frequency, high-frequency (including NFC), super-high frequency and microwave frequency radio waves, can all be used for RFID, but RAIN is based specifically on UHF in the 860-960 MHz range.
2. The tags are passive. That means the tags do not use batteries to power their return signal as opposed to active tags which have batteries powering the return signal.
3. UHF passive technology used by RAIN follows the specific protocols and formatting as defined in GS1’s EPC Gen2 standards and ISO’s 18000-63 standards.
A Brief History of RAIN RFID
The technology behind RAIN RFID has a complicated history and goes by many different names. To unravel some of these names and understand how we got to where we are today, a little history is in order.
- The Early Days
In 1999 the Auto-ID Center was established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Center was mostly research oriented and worked on RFID technologies and their applications. Shortly after it began, the group coined the term Electronic Product Code (EPC).
- Auto-ID Labs and EPCglobal are Formed
In the early 2000’s, the Auto-ID Center went through some changes and two new entities emerged: the Auto-ID Labs and EPCglobal as an affiliate of GS1 and GS1 US. Printronix was a founding member of EPCglobal. Probably the most active and well-known member organization of Auto-ID Labs is MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory. Multiple universities also participate and run their own labs at various locations around the world. The Auto-ID Labs network continues today, but with a focus on the technical and academic aspects of RFID.
- EPCglobal Emerges
The public standards work and commercial activities were mostly taken over by EPCglobal. In 2004, EPCglobal published their landmark EPC Gen2 standards based on the UHF Passive RFID that had been studied by the Auto-ID Center. To further clarify the term, this type of UHF Passive RFID uses ultra-high frequency radio waves of 860-960 MHz, and the word passive means that no local power source is used to power the return signal sent back from a tagged object to the reading device.
- ISO and IEC Get Involved
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) became involved in 2005; incorporating GS1’s EPC Gen2 standards under ISO/IEC’s own 18000-6C standards. ISO/IEC has since renamed this standard as 18000-63. As you can see, the number of names, standards and players has become very difficult to keep track of.
- GS1 Updates the Gen 2 Standard
In 2013, GS1 published a major update to their Gen2 standards, which they referred to as EPC Gen2v2. A year later, ISO/IEC assimilated these Gen2v2 standards under their existing 18000-63 standards. Relatively minor improvements to Gen2v2 continue, and the most recent version is Gen2v2.1 from 2018. The Gen2v2.1 standard remains as part of ISO/IEC’s 18000-63 standard.
- The Early Days
What is the RAIN Alliance?
With this confusing history, multitude of names, and myriad of other RFID technologies on the market, it became clear that this type of RFID technology would benefit from unification under a single name. As a result, several companies came together in 2014 and coined the term RAIN RFID. These companies banded together to form the RAIN Alliance and RAIN RFID was born.
Important Objectives of the RAIN Alliance
One of their primary objectives is to brand this type of RFID technology with a simple, clear name. There are many names and terms that can be used, and these terms can be strung together in a nearly infinite number of combinations. Here are some of the terms that are often used to describe this technology:
- GS1 EPC
- GS1 UHF Passive
- GS1 UHF Passive Gen2
- EPC Class 1, Gen2
- ISO 18000-6C
- ISO 18000-63
Rather than use these terms in seemingly random combinations and sequences to generate possible names, the RAIN Alliance thought it would be better if the technology had a single, simple name, RAIN RFID. Everyone knows brands like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. This is what the RAIN Alliance is striving for with the RAIN RFID brand.
Another objective of the Alliance is to clarify the language we use when talking about RFID. What does a person mean when they say RFID? Does the person mean RFID in its true, broad sense? Or, do they mean a particular type of RFID? If so, which one? When referring to GS1 EPC Gen2 / ISO/IEC 18000-63 / etc., a person could use one or more of these RFID terms, but it is so much easier, and clearer to just say RAIN RFID.
Do Printronix Auto ID RFID Printers use RAIN RFID?
Printronix Auto ID RFID printers are designed based on RAIN RFID. We know that by using RAIN RFID, compatibility between tags, printers and readers is optimized for our customers. As active members of the RAIN Alliance, and AIM RFID Expert Group, we participate in the review of standards and issues associated with RFID.
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