ISO 11784/85 Update - WG3 meeting in Edinburgh

Gosstandart of Russia, which is a permanent member of ISO/TC12/SC19, formally submitted a motion to that forum on April 20, 1998, as a New Work Item, requesting that ISO 11784/85 be returned to WG3 for review and revision.

The Gosstandart motion listed several major problems affecting the standard, all of which are generally recognized by most of the SC19 members as well as a great number of RF/ID user groups.

The SC19 Secretariat tallied the votes received on October 5, 1998, and released the results to coincide with the meeting of WG3 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The results of the vote announced by SC19 stated that 12 countries had voted in favour of the Gosstandart proposal and 7 countries voted against it, with two countries abstaining.

This tally did not however take into account the updated count of Permanent (P) SC19 member nations, Consequently the votes of some new SC19 members and of some former "O" members who had converted to "P" membership status were not counted.

Furthermore, several member nations have submitted a qualified vote recognizing the need for review of the standard, apparently incorrectly assuming that the request for "suspension" of the standard would cause immediate, automatic suspension of the standard, while the standard is being reviewed. Unfortunately, the proper procedural sequence, allaying the above concern, was identified by the SC19 Secretariat only in its German language cover letter.
Two member nations have requested a delay in vote tabulation for administrative reasons.

Based on the document submitted by SC19 to WG3 Edinburgh meeting, an announcement was developed by WG3 in acceptance of the ISO 11784/85 standard.
During the WG3 meeting, one of the major problems, lack of code security, has been discussed under the heading New Work Item Proposal, Advanced Transponder.

Among the participating manufacturers there was no dissent that the present standard does not provide any ID code security (i.e. no assurance can be given that the ID codes provided by the manufacturers are in fact unique). Recognition of this short-coming was well formulated by Mr. David Clemons of Destron/Fearing.
A solution currently under discussion in the working group proposes three levels of security to be implemented in years to come.

The proposal would introduce technological barriers to code duplication. This approach utilizes more complex technologies and therefore requires the use of larger ICs in complying transponders. These large ICs cannot be used in miniature implantable transponders, because of their large size, effectively precluding this strategy for "code security" in animal implantable transponders.

However, the degree of "security" this solution can offer is again only perceived, because there is in fact no way to legally enforce code uniqueness. One hypothetical solution discussed was to be limit access to ISO-compliant readers only to authorised personnel, and limit the number of readers in the field, on the grounds that anyone who has access to a reader would be a potential code cracker. This approach was immediately recognised as not workable. This "advanced transponder"-based standard would still have to be an open standard, allowing anybody to manufacture compliant product without any restrictions. Adding technical complexity does not provide legal protection. Patents, if any, must be made available to all comers on a nondiscriminatory basis under ISO patent policy rules . Consequently, there is once again no possibility to enforce the uniqueness of ID codes.

This proposed solution faces not only technical obstacles to implementation, but also would result in significantly higher costs which would make the product unappealing to the proposed target markets, which are highly cost sensitive. The product cost would increase commensurate to the degree of "security" to be implemented, with the third and highest security level being the most costly.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Kostas Aslanidis of Texas Instruments, expressed an opinion that one can expect that shortly there will be some manufacturers providing blank read/write ISO-compliant transponders to the market.

As a matter of fact, this type of technology may prove very useful in close-loop operations, for example, in dairy applications or in applications calling for the recycling of the transponders or where direct owner access without passing through an intermediary database is required (via a telephone number programmed into the transponder, for example).

Even the interim voting results publicized on 5 October show that substantial dissent exists and that "patch-on" solutions are perceived as being inadequate. The standard will at some point need to be returned to WG3 to be reworked. Regarding the Gosstandart motion to that end, the tally of votes needs to be adjusted for the reasons cited above. We expect that over the next few weeks, this issue will be addressed. Interested parties should keep themselves apprised of future developments.