International Standards Organisation returns RFID standard for animal use to working group for major revisions

On September 25, in response to demand by user groups and widespread complaints, the International Standards Organisation has returned two standards, ISO11784 and ISO11785, to SC19 Working Group 3 by vote of the ISO Council. The ISO Council is the executive body of the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Standards Organisation. ISO11784 and 11785 together comprise a standard for electronic identification (RFID) in agricultural machinery, livestock and other animals.

Based on the problems with ISO 11784 and 11785, it appears certain that the new standards which would emerge from WG3 will embody fundamental changes and major revisions of the present standard.

The ISO11784/85 standard has been beset with major problems even preceding its publication in August 15, 1996 and October 15, 1996 respectively. In particular, user groups have criticized the lack of unique identification codes. Because of the potential for intentional misuse, electronic identification devices (transponders) conforming to the above standard are unsuitable for use with national livestock tracking registries or companion animal registries. Registries of these types are a major proposed application for the standard.

The ISO 11784/85 standard also violates the International Standards Organisation's patent policy, as well as antitrust laws in several countries, due to the existence of three conflicting patents affecting ISO 11785. The revised standard must exclude technology claimed by patent holders as being subject to their patents.

There are also a number of other technical problems and conflicts.

Use of ISO 11784/85 compliant transponders, which operate at 134.2 Khz, would be subject to severe restrictions in Germany, due to a conflict with prior frequency assignations made by the German post office. It has been asserted that compliant equipment operating on this frequency may also interfere with the operation of life-supporting medical equipment (heart pacemakers). It will be necessary to change the frequency.

ISO 11784 and ISO 11785 embody two fundamentally incompatible approaches: the so-called full-duplex approach (FDX) and half-duplex approach (HDX), resulting in costly readers and compromised performance for both the FDX and the HDX elements of the standard. HDX is used exclusively in livestock applications, and has proven unsuitable for use in other applications. A number of national delegations have suggested that separate standards should be published for different applications.

ISO 11784 and ISO 11785 do not stipulate minimum transponder performance requirements for the types of transponders used in most applications. ISO compliance was therefore no guarantee to the user of suitability of a given RFID product for the intended application.

Recall of ISO 11784 and ISO 11785 will give the standard setting organisation an opportunity to address the problems concerning duplicate codes of transponders and specific performance guidelines, solution of which is indispensable to the user community. The requirements of different user groups cannot be accommodated within one standard, as it is today. The working group will also have the opportunity of developing separate standards for livestock and for companion animals, suitable to the specific requirements of the very different user communities. A reader-based standard solution will be proposed.

It is expected that systems built to the present standard's specifications will be incompatible with the revised standards specifications.

ISO 11784/85 compatible products have been primarily promoted in Europe by FECAVA, and by RFID distributors Rhone Merieux and Virbac, as well as manufacturers U.S.-based Destron-Fearing (Nasdaq: DFCO) and Datamars of Switzerland.