Posted by Lori Ayre on November 21, 2011

I got a call the other day from one of my clients in the throes of an RFID implementation.  She was distressed because members of her consortium were not coming to agreement on which RFID vendor they would use so she wondered if it was possible to use one vendor's products in one location and another vendor's products at the other locations.

The answer is Yes You Can.  This is the beauty of standards.  

As I told my client, as long as you ensure that both vendors use the same data model and standard (and I recommend ISO 28560-2 since that is the recommendation by NISO), and you ensure that both vendors know exactly what you want encoded on your tag and where that data will be placed....they should both be able to use the same tags regardless of who's circulation and security equipment you use.

In other words, now that we have a standard (ISO) and a guideline (NISO) to rely upon, the burden is now up to the library to make the choices that will work for them and find vendors that will do what they need done.  

It shouldn't be the vendor telling you what to put on the tag or how to do it.  That is the job of the library.  Its your data and your workflow...what do you need?  Look at the data elements and choose the items that will help your team work more efficiently. 

Your RFID vendors will need to work on the communication with your ILS (or ILS vendor) to get the data you want on the tag (via SIP2) so, with two vendors, that will be more work.  But once you get that squared away, running your system should go smoothly as long as both RFID vendors are doing exactly what you asked for and encoding per the standard.

I recommend having your tags tested by a third party to ensure that they are indeed written to the tag as you specify and according to 28560-2 standards.  It's easy for vendors to say "Yea, yea, it's per the standard" but the truth is, most of the vendors haven't had to do it yet because the standard is so new.  And many of them don't have a very good track record on following the standard they said they were following partly because it didn't matter too much.  Everyone was locked into their vendor and that vendors chosen "standard."

But, now we have a chance to really achieve interoperability, vendor independence, and improved resource-sharing, so it is worth making sure your vendor is doing it right.

I hope to be playing a role in making it easy and affordable for libraries to get that third party verification that their tags are being encoded per their specificiations....stay tuned!