“There is an enormous amount of applied research that needs to be done to move RFID forward and realize the dream of creating the Internet of Things," says John Williams, director of the MIT Auto-ID Labs. Speaking at the recent RFID Academic Convocation, which was attended by 100 leaders in RFID, Williams presented details of an RFID global simulator development effort chartered by the EPCglobal Architecture Review Committee. “The Internet of Things to make billions of physical objects visible over the web will require a secure and scaleable infrastructure that is more challenging to build than the original internet,” he says.
All told, the end users and academics at the conference identified research projects across several industries that will require tens of millions of dollars in investments over the next five years. Among the areas that will require research funds are network protocol standards, specialized tags for airplane and auto parts, applications for micro and nano manufacturing technologies, innovative bio and material sciences development in packaging.
A panel discussion with Mike Rose, vice president of supply chain for Johnson & Johnson, together Thomas Pizzutto, director RFID technology & strategies, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals; Ted Ng, director, emerging technology, McKesson; and Robert Celeste of the EPCglobal HLS Business Action Group, identified additional RFID research areas requiring collaboration in the Health and Life Sciences sector. These include data sharing, security, serialization, RF effects on chemical bonds and thermal effects, and RFID integration with other authentication technologies.
Alan Thorne of the Cambridge University Auto-ID Labs, and Ken Porad, program manager for automated identification programs at Boeing, spoke about the Dreamliner Specifications for RFID and the requirement to equip and test subassemblies with active RFID tags that record maintenance histories, as Airbus and Boeing look to optimize spare parts maintenance management. Given that airplane parts operate under harsh conditions and last for decades, new tags will need to be designed to meet the industry's needs. And methods and standards for synchronizing parts histories on tags and in databases need to be developed.
Dick Cantwell, vice president of Procter & Gamble/Gillette and chairman of the EPCglobal board of governors, challenged attendees to move the EPC network “from PowerPoint to reality.”
Stephen Miles, a researcher at the MIT Auto-ID Labs, estimates that the total cost of the required research could be more than $100 million over the next five years. End users expressed an interest in working with researchers to help fund some of the required research, but more work needs to be done to map out the work that needs to be done.