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checked out using the express check machines.While the RFID technology shows some
problems (see Case Study II, below), barcodes would serve as a safety net of some kind.
RFID is a relatively new technology, but it is being actively promoted. It has been
touted as a replacement for all barcoding technology applications. Actually, in the cultural
heritage sector the real answer is not to choose either smart labels or barcodes for all
applications, but to determine which one fits best the requirements of a specific business
need. In some innovative museum applications, which involve tracking people or items
from a distance without disturbing the people or checking each item with a wand, RFID
is an obvious choice. In cases where the basic aim is to implement a system to check-out
items from a collection or maintain good inventory control, the essential technological
features are different.
Not all of the advantages of smart labels truly add value to the management of library
collections when compared with the initial investment and subsequent costs.The cost of
the labels is still the biggest expense in the introduction of RFID technology.
Among benefits of RFID it is worth mentioning that the lack of the line of sight
requirement results in lower perceived intrusive presence of staff and an improvement in
privacy.Tolerance of a harsh environment and tracking items in real-time could be of
great importance in cases of fire and floods, but may not be essential for general day-to-
day work. Long read range also helps in minimising staff involvement and aids security.
Multiple tag read/write is crucial when writing new content, and will facilitate informa-
tion management in organisations, though in some collections the ability to add new
items would be more valuable than the ability to change the contents of existing tags.
The basic benefits in libraries relate to personnel management and organisation of the
information processes.These could be improved to an extent that would justify the costs
of the implementation of RFID.
The performance of RFID equipment does not yet equal that of barcoding. Reported
real-life cases of unstable reading stations and problems with the readability of labels are
significant and should be monitored. In addition to this, barcodes are usually smaller in
size than smart tags, and are often easier to apply to the variety of items in cultural
heritage collections.
The state of standardisation
One of the reasons for the slow adoption of RFID might be the lack of mature and
widely adopted standards. Some application fields have developed their own standards, for
instance ISO 11784/11785 an Animal Identification RFID standard and ISO ANSI
NCITS T6 256 1999 an Item Management RFID standard.The standard ISO/IEC
JTC1/SC31 19762 Part 2: Radio-Frequency Identification (transmission) is still under devel-
opment. Standardisation in the cultural heritage sector is not yet mature, although work
on a smart label standard for museum applications has been carried out within the
frameworks of the CIMI consortium (see Case Study IV, below).
Ultra Wide Band and eTen
Ultra Wide Band (UWB) consists of the use of extremely short RF pulses instead of
continuous waves to transmit information.The pulses directly generate a very wide
Smart Labels
and Smart Tags