RFID testing goes outside U.S. MHz range

Odin gets two-year experimental FCC license affecting RFID's security applications
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Sunday, January 1, 2006

DULLES, Va.--Odin Technologies, a forerunner in RFID technology consulting and testing, announced a new ability to test RFID equipment in late November that will allow U.S. security companies with a global reach to better test RFID applications. Thanks to an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission, which Odin believes to be unique, the company is now able to test products at frequencies outside of RFID's U.S.-legal 902-928 MHz range. The FCC will allow Odin to test RFID equipment at frequencies ranging from 864-869 and 950-956 MHz, at up to eight watts of power, significantly higher than the standard one-watt allowance for unlicensed frequencies. Odin's application said the license was necessary so that they can test products here that will be eventually used in Europe, Japan, or other global locations where regulations for frequency use are different than in the United States.
The experimental license is good for two years. FCC documents show no other RFID-related experimental licenses have been granted in the last six months.
"UHF RFID is a very compelling new technology for mobile asset security," said Odin's vice president of operations and marketing Bret Kinsella, when asked about security-related aspects of this testing. "For [U.S.] companies looking to install a RFID mobile asset security solution globally, they need to be able to test equipment and use cases in a variety of UHF frequencies." India regulates RFID at 865-867 MHz, for example. Without this testing facility, according to Odin, it's possible that what works in the United States between 902 and 928 might be unreliable at 866, and there'd be no way of knowing without the expense of testing the equipment halfway around the world.
Though there is a push for universal harmonization of RFID frequencies worldwide, according to the FCC, each country has a different history with regulating radio frequencies, which can get in the way of this goal. A testing program like Odin's could affect software-designed radio chips, which can be reprogrammed as they change regulation environments, or even "cognitive" chips, which will sense the RFID environment using GPS or some other mechanism and reprogram themselves, according to the FCC information.
Odin, said Kinsella, "has already worked with a U.S. federal agency to pilot a complex multi-frequency RFID security solution. The new FCC licenses allow Odin Technologies to test frequencies for Europe, Japan, India, Korea, Australia... all in its Dulles, Va., RFID performance lab. It is one-stop shopping for scientific RFID testing and design services on a global basis." However, Odin's license does make this testing subject to prior coordination with the Associated Public Safety Communications Officers, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and existing land mobile licenses previously granted by the FCC.