RFID Standards: ISO, IEC, EPCglobal

- Oct 19, 2018-

There are a number of industry standards that are used to define the different elements of RFID. These RFID standards enable manufacturers to make the same products for a variety of markets and in this way gain the economies of scale.

The RFID standards, like standards for any other technology, enable products from different manufacturers to operate together. It enables, for example tags that may be required in very large quantities to be bought from a large scale manufacturer, whilst obtaining the reader, writer or transceiver from another manufacturer. Having RFID standards in place means that these two elements will operate properly together.

RFID standards organisations

There are two main international RFID standards organisations or bodies that govern RFID:

  • ISO - International Standards Organisation

  • EPCglobal - Electronics Product Code Global Incorporated

Although these two organisations provide the main RFID standards organisations, there is also a plethora of other standards that apply to niche areas of RFID.

In terms of the standardisation organisations ISO is the longest established. In 1996 it set up a joint committee with IEC to look at standardisation for RFID technology.

The ISO RFID standards fall into a number of categories according to the aspect of RFID that they are addressing. These include: air interface and associated protocols; data content and the formatting; conformance testing; applications; and various other smaller areas.

In addition to the ISO RFID standards, there are also the standards from EPC Global. In 1999 a number of industrial companies with MIT set an consortium known as the Auto-ID consortium with the aim of researching and standardising RFID technology.

In 2003 this organisation was split with the majority of the standardisation activities coming under a new entity called EPCglobal. The Auto-ID Center retained its activities associated with the research into RFID technologies.

Auto-ID tag standards

In order to be able to standardise the RFID tags, the Auto-ID Center devised a series of classes for RFID tags. was generated and these still form the basis for a developed system of RFID tag classes seen today:

  • Class 0:   Basic read-only passive tag using backscatter where the tag was programmed at the time the tag chip was made.

  • Class 1:   Basic read-only passive tag using backscatter with one-time non-volatile programme capability.

  • Class 2:   Passive backscatter tag with up to 65k of read-write memory.

  • Class 3:   Semi-passive tag with up to 65 k read-write memory and a battery incorporated to provide increased range.

  • Class 4:   Active tag using a with battery to enable extra functionality within the tag and also to provide power for the transmitter.

  • Class 5:   An active tag that provides additional circuitry to communicate with other class 5 tags.

The responsibilities for Class 0 and Class 1 RFID tag definitions and standards was handed on to EPC Global in 2003.

Although other newer RFID tag standards and now available, reference is still made to these original tag classes.

RFID standards tabulation

Some of the main RFID standards are summarised in the table below.


ISO 10536ISO RFID standard for close coupled cards
ISO 11784ISO RFID standard that defines the way in which data is structured on an RFID tag.
ISO 11785ISO RFID standard that defines the air interface protocol.
ISO 14443ISO RFID standard that provides the definitions for air interface protocol for RFID tags used in proximity systems - aimed for use with payment systems
ISO 15459Unique identifiers for transport units (used in supply chain management)
ISO 15693ISO RFID standard for use with what are termed vicinity cards
ISO 15961ISO RFID standard for Item Management (includes application interface (part 1), registration of RFID data constructs (part 2), and RFID data constructs (part 3).
ISO 15962ISO RFID standard for item management - data encoding rules and logical memory functions.
ISO 16963ISO RFID standard for item management - unique identifier of RF tag.
ISO 18000ISO RFID standard for the air interface for RFID frequencies around the globe
ISO 18001RFID for item management - application requirements profiles.
ISO 18046RFID tag and interrogator performance test methods.
ISO 18047The ISO RFID standard that defines the testing including conformance testing of RFID tags and readers. This is split into several parts that mirror the parts for ISO 18000.
ISO 24710Information technology, automatic identification and data capture techniques - RFID for item management - Elementary tag license plate functionality for ISO 18000 air interface.
ISO 24729RFID implementation guidelines - part : RFID enabled labels; part 2: recyclability of RF tags; part 3: RFID interrogator / antenna installation.
ISO 24730RFID real time locating system: Part 1: Application Programming Interface (API); Part 2: 2.4 GHz; Part 3: 433 MHz; Part 4: Global Locating Systems
ISO 24752System management protocol for automatic identification and data capture using RFID
ISO 24753Air interface commands for battery assist and sensor functionality
ISO 24769Real Time Locating System (RTLS) device conformance test methods
ISO 24770Real Time Locating System (RTLS) device performance test methods

ISO 18000 series RFID standards

The ISO 18000 series standards is a series of standards that define the air interface for the different RFID frequencies in use around the globe. There is a total of seven standards withn the ISO 18000 series as outlined in the table below:


ISO 18000-V1Generic parameters for air interfaces for globally accepted frequencies
ISO 18000-V2Air interface for 135 KHz
ISO 18000-V3Air interface for 13.56 MHz
ISO 18000-V4Air interface for 2.45 GHz
ISO 18000-V5Air interface for 5.8 GHz
ISO 18000-V6Air interface for 860 MHz to 930 MHz
ISO 18000-V7Air interface at 433.92 MHz

RFID standards, like standards for other system provide a real impetus to the overall RFID eco system. A variety of manufacturers can enter the same market and equipment purchasers are able to buy from one of a variety of vendors knowing that different parts will interoperate. This grows the whole market and enable all participants to benefit.

As such the RFID standards have enabled the technology to the major technology in this market area, although many manufacturers can supply equipment. The presence of standards has enabled the system to flourish and grow.