Posted by Lori Ayre on July 5, 2012

I've suggested many times that somewhere along the way, we are going to need to find a way to test the encoding of our RFID tags.  Now that we have a US Data Model, libraries need to be able to ensure that their encoded tags comply with ISO 28560-2.  At this point, the only company that I know of that can do such a thing is Convergent Software (out of the UK).  They've provided tools that vendors can use to experiment with encoding (in various ways) and to ensure that the way they've encoded the tags meets the standard.

These tools are also available to libraries and I hope libraries will begin considering using these tools because there are numerous options associated with encoding your RFID tags and some of these tools can help you sort out the issue. For example, not only do you need to decide which data elements you want to use, but you also have to decide what order you want them on the tag and which of them you'd like to lock. Performance of you system will be affected by the choices you make.

Deciding about the elements and the order they appear on your tag has everything to do with your own workflow, what you ILS can do with the data on the tags, and what you are trying to accomplish.  It is not straightforward. The easy way out is to say "just stick the barcode on the tag and be done with it."  Easy but not smart because you are wasting a ridiculous amount of money with that approach.

Just to give you a taste of what some of your choices are, I'm attaching a tutorial that Convergent makes available on their website.  I found it very useful because it gets at some of the more granular choices to be made. It also gives you a little glimpse of what you can do with their tools.

The new data model is very good for libraries but not because it makes your life simpler. In fact, it puts more pressure on libraries who now have no excuse to just cover their ears and do the what the vendor says.  Libraries need to learn more about the ways RFID can be used in their library and beyond their library (e.g. acquisitions, ILL, and materials handling).  And libraries need to take control of their RFID implementations and ensure the US Data Profile is leveraged (ideally) and complied with (at least) by every vendor involved in providing, reading or writing to those tags.

Who's willing to lead the charge?