Posted by Lori Ayre on April 10, 2011

Mick Fortune, of  RFID-Changing Libraries for Good fame notes that the new data model standard released by ISO just a few weeks ago (ISO 28560) “presents both a threat and an opportunity for suppliers. The threat is obvious. Up until now it has proved too difficult for most libraries to switch suppliers once they have purchased an RFID solution.” With the potential for interoperability between RFID systems, the library RFID marketplace may soon face competition.

Up until now, when libraries chose an RFID vendor, they were stuck with that vendor because each vendor had license to do whatever they wanted with the tags as long as the physical tag followed the 18000 Part 3, Mode 1 standard. Now that we have a standard that provides guidelines for how what to write to the tags (date elements) and *how” to write that data to the tags (encoding), there is an opportunity for interoperability between libraries and competition between RFID vendors.

Mick points out that with the new standard, our RFID solutions could actually be “open” and we could have true interoperability if we commit to using RFID solutions that conform to all the newest standards. As Mick states, “With every supplier inventing their own solution – and consequently supplying their own levels of functionality – switching suppliers (if possible at all) risks losing established functionality.” Well, with a standard data model and encoding method, the risk of losing functionality with a new vendor goes away…theoretically. It all depends on compliance. Thus my recent post about insisting on compliance from your vendor, and if you haven’t chosen an RFID vendor yet…be absolutely sure you make sure they prove 28560-2 compliance.

But even assuming your vendor is in fact 28560-2 compliant, there’s another challenge. We still have to communicate with the ILS and that means SIP2 and that means we need something better than what we’ve got now.

The good news is that 3M, the original developer SIP, is working on SIP3. 3M has been working with ILS vendors, self-service vendors, payment system and PC management system vendors from around the world to provide input for version 3.0. They report that Version 3.0 “standardizes common extensions used by vendors which will enhance interoperability between library systems, as well as help ensure that vendors can quickly migrate to version 3.0, allowing a faster transition to the latest version in the global marketplace. SIP 3.0 will also provide additional messages and data, allowing for electronic media, line item fine payments, user management (creation, update) and staff overrides.”

Yesterday 3M announced the availability of a discussion board targeting the library community so they can get comments from the field. Anyone interested in joining should send their name, company name and email address to with the heading SIP Discussion Board.

If you haven’t been paying attention to library standards and protocols, it is a good time to start doing so. There are a lot of changes afoot and it is going to affect what you can and cannot do with your data. These RFID standards can be used to ensure libraries have more choices and more power in how they use technology to improve their services for customers and optimize the backoffice workflows. But standards are just standards until we adopt them and insist on compliance.

Let’s take advantage of these opportunities to demand vendors demonstrate compliance to 28560-2 and let’s also get a version of SIP that does more for libraries. Your input is needed on both counts.