CompTIA and AIM to Develop RFID Certification

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Radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies and products are projected to play a major role in business–particularly in the retail industry–in the coming years. With that in mind, CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, and the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM Global) announced that the two organizations will collaborate on developing a vendor-neutral, foundation-level certification in that discipline.


“We envision this (certification) playing a critical role,” said David Sommer, vice president of electronic commerce at CompTIA. “We see this as enabling the skilling initiatives that are going to be necessary on this technology.”


Rolling out a training and certification program around RFID in the near future is imperative, because the number of professionals in this area of expertise will have to grow by at least a factor of 10 to meet industry demands in a few short years, Sommer said. He explained that RFID mandates have been put out by several major retailers, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, meaning all of their suppliers would have to place RFID tags on every item going into those institutions. Sommer also cited two recent studies, one in which IT research firm META Group projects that approximately 30 percent of manufactured goods will be RFID-enabled by 2008, and will swell to 80 percent by 2013, and another in which research organization Yankee Group predicts organizations will spend $4.2 billion in 2008 on RFID services.


Although RFID is considered to be relatively novel, the technology actually dates back to World War II, Sommer said. “It really is not a new technology,” he said. “The current buzz around RFID is the use of RFID tags. It’s used to specifically identify a given product or good. What’s typically coded on an RFID tag is the identification of that specific (product). It can be used in various levels in terms of identifying an item.” He also said that users can apply RFID tags to a specific item, groups of a single item and/or a set of associated items.


“People draw the analogy to bar codes, but generally bar codes are used to identify the type of product—in other words, to identify that it is a specific brand or model,” Sommer added. “Bar code technology requires what’s called ‘line of sight.’ You have to have a reader, and you have to be able to see where the bar code is, and point the reader at the bar code. An RFID tag–at least in theory–can be anywhere on that item and still be read. By not having the line-of-sight requirement, it can be used more extensively throughout the supply chain to track an individual item. There are constraints in terms of the technology and its ability to read, depending on the nature of the tag, where it’s placed, things of that nature, but a lot of these technological challenges are starting to be overcome.”


Representatives from more than a dozen companies and government agencies are scheduled to meet on Dec. 8 and 9 at CompTIA world headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. to discuss demand for RFID skills development, and the scope and structure of an industry-accepted RFID certification. “There are some specific skills and knowledge we know are necessary to implement RFID technology,” said Sommer, and added that radio frequencies, interference, terminology and standards were topics that would be addressed by any RFID credential. He also said since RFID solutions are connected to the network, basic knowledge of computer networking will be required of candidates. “The overall IT industry is going to have to get more involved with this. They’re very much the experts in terms of technology itself.”


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