After a year of consultation, the European Commission has finally proposed guidelines for the implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in the EU.
The commission proposes in particular to address the privacy concerns of citizens to boost consumer confidence and Europe's position in a market experiencing 60 per cent growth globally. In addition, it will create an RFID Stakeholder Group to provide advice and assistance in developing a European policy position concerning RFID applications.
"From fighting counterfeits to better healthcare, smart RFID-chips offer tremendous opportunities for business and society," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. Speaking at the CeBIT trade event in Hanover, Germany, last week, Reding said the Commission would draft rules later this year to amend EU e-privacy legislation to take account of RFID.
The commission also wants to ensure that further development and deployment of smart radio tags are as safe, secure, privacy-friendly and effective as possible. According to the Commission, the market for RFID is growing rapidly and will contribute €7bn to the EU's coffers by 2016.
In the US, the take up of smart tags in the pharmaceutical industry is already booming and the pharma sector is now the second largest adopter of RFID technology, with 18 per cent of suppliers and 14 per cent of customers in this field now piloting or using RFID. As a result, the market for RFID tags in US healthcare is predicted to explode from $90m (€70m) in 2006 to $2.1bn in 2016.
These new guidelines are certainly set to attract US-based RFID providers to come over and play in the European arena. RFID provider Impinj, for example, announced last week the debut of its Gen 2 RFID reader in Europe.
The Seattle-based company said it has gained certification of its Speedway reader from the European Telecommunications Standard Insistute (ETSI), which means the technology is now compliant with all health, safety and environmental regulations in Europe. Impinj said its Speedway reader maintains the same high levels of performance when operating in Europe as the platform deployed in large-scale distribution and supply chain in North America.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of positive results for efficiency tests conducted by the firm last October at an RFID-enabled distribution centre in Germany. "We are experiencing significant demand in numerous market segments and look forward to providing European RFID users with the only UHF reader that performs equally well from pallet and case tagging to item tagging applications using far-field or near-field modes of operation," said Dimitri Desmons, vice president of RFID marketing at Impinj.
RFID is a technology which involves tags that emit radio signals as identifiers, and devices that pick up the signal and identify the tags. It has a wide range of applications and does not require direct contact or line-of-sight scanning - a characteristic that holds a high potential for pharmaceutical supply chain management issues.