RFID Gets Power Boost

In ET Docket No. 01-278, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased the maximum field strength and transmission duration permitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) systems using the 433 MHz band. The new rules should benefit commercial shippers and homeland security by enabling the entire contents of a shipping container to be read.

“With 2 billion tons of freight traveling through U.S. ports and waterways yearly, ensuring the efficient flow of goods while reducing the possibility of terrorism and fraud is no easy task,” stated FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. The FCC’s Third Report and Order establishes new technical and operational rules that allow higher powered/longer duration RFID tag use in commercial and industrial environments. Chairman Powell acknowledged recent concerns over privacy and stated the rules are narrowly tailored.

The new rules should give RFID systems operating between 433.5 and 434.5 MHz greater range, faster and more reliable data transmission, according to the FCC. These systems “could enable the entire contents of shipping containers to be easily and immediately identified and could interface with sensors that indicate whether tampering with a container had occurred in shipment,” it continued.

“We recognize that the interference concerns raised with respect to 433 MHz RFID systems can be largely ameliorated by restricting the locations where they operate and the types of uses permitted,” said the FCC. “Accordingly, we are restricting operation under the new RFID rule to the identification of the contents of commercial shipping containers. Voice communications will not be permitted.” The FCC will also limit the operations to commercial and industrial areas such as ports, rail terminals, and warehouses.

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