Mick Fortune - Reflections and Predictions for Library RFID


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  • How did we get here, have we got it right – or wrong? Where next?
  • A little glimpse of the future? RFID uses are myriad in number and often confusing because of their ubiquity. Phones and cards are already used in libraries – other devices will follow. It’s probably best to think of RFID in library management as being separate from its other applications
  • … and my prediction for the “next big thing” – already used in book supply
  • The growth in use of RFID in the UK has been seen by many as a triumph. The announcement of the introduction of RFID is often accompanied by phrases such as “joining the 21 st century”, “state of the art” etc. - which is odd for a technology that has been in active use in libraries for at least 15 years. I’m going to suggest that in reality the way the UK has gone about implementing RFID has been far from triumphant, and that if we don’t heed the warnings the example we risk setting the world is of how NOT to do it.
  • It’s easy to understand why RFID is so popular and the market was already positioned to deliver since the LMS links were already there
  • Certainly the figures suggest it is
  • RFID has spread like wildfire. Everyone wants it but few know very much about it. Suppliers have done their best to identify and anticipate applications – but with little help from librarians or the other key players in this equation – the LMS suppliers.
  • The need for self service drove the libraries Adding the value of security drove the suppliers
  • The disadvantages of proprietary solutions
  • … which has lead to a lack of integration and interoperability. Ideas are plentiful… but most libraries, and many suppliers have little idea how to implement them
  • So why is this the case? For reasons that are unclear RFID has been widely misunderstood by users, suppliers and experts alike Privacy should not be an issue Job losses are management decisions, not a consequence of the technology UHF or HF, 28560-2 or DDM? – are not really difficult decisions. But it’s much more than a barcode
  • One of the biggest problems was obvious – almost from the beginning … Germany and the US - usually quick to adopt new technologies - heeded the warnings – the UK did not.
  • So, are we doomed to limited use of the technology?
  • Hopefully not but by having concentrating so hard on implementing self-service we have mostly failed to notice that we have simultaneously changed the way everything else works. Most libraries now struggle with both RFID and barcode based applications.
  • Partly this is because of the way we buy RFID. We accepted the requirement to buy from a single vendor without question. Possibly because that’s the way we buy our LMS? But there would have been no need for this if we’d spent 5 minutes thinking about what underlies the whole system – the tags. Now even the suppliers want us to do that – but librarians don’t seem interested.
  • How many librarians are aware of the work that has been undertaken on their behalf over the last three years? Or why? These are some of the things I’ve been involved in.
  • We’re very close to this being the “norm” for all future installations
  • To avoid repeating the “lock in” error made with RFID we need to encourage good behaviour by LMS companies too…
  • Buying through a framework might be the “safe” option career-wise but may well be the worst decision you’ll ever make for your stakeholders. Frameworks are out of date, force single supplier purchases and cost more money (they add between 1.5 and 2% to the bottom line). Cite example of LUPC’s dilemma
  • There are many opinions out there…
  • The people who manufacture the chips clearly aren’t concerned about integration and LMS linkage, not to mention data standards
  • The suppliers “get it” though
  • But some librarians still need convincing that they need to use standards – or maybe they’re just worried that they should have been paying better attention? Signs here that having all your stock tagged one way might be a problem? Cite example of RFID company asking me how to read someone else’s tags.
  • New products and new players are arriving too…
  • If you don’t – well… you will always have self service. If you do there’s a whole new world out there…
  • It’s not too late, and your supplier – if they signed the Alliance statement – has already committed to helping you migrate.
  • Mick Fortune - Reflections and Predictions for Library RFID

    1. 1. Chipping in – Reflections on and Predictions for Library RFID. Mick Fortune Library RFID Limited
    2. 2. Today I shall mostly be talking about… <ul><li>The story so far </li></ul><ul><li>RFID - a missed opportunity for libraries? </li></ul><ul><li>Where do we go from here? </li></ul>
    3. 3. … but first Library 24 – Verona Automated Receiving – Maastricht RFID enabled smartphone, USA Book sorter – Lyngby, Smart Shelves, Singapore
    4. 4. Future, or Futurama? + = RFID enabled IPhone Available from Amazon
    5. 5. THE STORY SO FAR
    6. 6. How did it all begin? <ul><li>Self service has two main requirements – rapid circulation and security </li></ul><ul><li>Library RFID has two key attributes – multiple transaction handling and onboard security </li></ul><ul><li>So - a match made in heaven? </li></ul>
    7. 7. Rapid Growth Based on data from the annual RFID survey on LIB-RFID
    8. 8. <ul><li>Surveys show that librarians mostly seek advice from… other librarians. </li></ul><ul><li>This may have created a “me too” effect that has driven our record investment in RFID </li></ul><ul><li>BUT the obvious and immediate benefits of self service may have obscured the underlying problem of interoperability. </li></ul>What inspired such growth?
    9. 9. A Happy Coincidence or… <ul><li>How libraries first encountered RFID has tended to shape their thinking about what it can do. </li></ul><ul><li>What suppliers sold before RFID has tended to influence the type of solutions they offer. </li></ul>A Series of Unfortunate Events?
    10. 10. Development has been slow <ul><li>Librarians feel they want more from RFID – but are not sure how to get it. </li></ul><ul><li>RFID companies want to offer more – but often need LMS help to develop. </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of common RFID standards discourages LMS from developing functionality </li></ul><ul><li>IT skills often absent from libraries. </li></ul>
    11. 11. (Dis)integrating Solutions <ul><li>RFID suppliers have tended to develop their solutions in isolation. </li></ul><ul><li>LMS “integration” is mostly limited to using an outdated serial protocol (SIP). </li></ul><ul><li>Self service was relatively easy and effective -but has been delivered by sacrificing interoperability. </li></ul><ul><li>A Google search will find dozens of ideas for using RFID in the library – almost all unique. </li></ul>
    12. 12. There are many misconceptions… <ul><li>It threatens jobs </li></ul><ul><li>It’s too complex </li></ul><ul><li>It’s very simple </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Just a smart label - a “Barcode on Steroids” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It threatens privacy </li></ul>
    13. 13. … and an (un)comfortable assumption? <ul><li>The lack of data standards was recognised as a problem as early as 2003 in both the USA – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ If the possibility exists that more than one vendor’s RFID system will be used, RFID interoperability standards must be developed and adhered to.” http://www.lincolntrail.info/RFIDInConsortialEnvironment.html </li></ul></ul><ul><li>and in Germany, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ All existing RFID systems use proprietary technology which means that if company A puts an RFID tag on a product, it can't be read by Company B unless they both use the same RFID system from the same vendor.&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>[RFID Journal 2003]. Quoted by Mats G. Lindquist at IFLA Berlin, Chair, IFLA's Information Technology section </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Have we aimed too low? <ul><li>Concentration on self-service has limited our ambition. </li></ul><ul><li>Pace of UK adoption has been frenetic, but development has been slow. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Suppliers too busy with self-service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Little engagement from LMS </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Global market now developing using standards - and may rapidly overtake UK </li></ul>
    16. 16. Hobson’s Choice <ul><li>97.8% of RFID installations buy their entire RFID solution from a single supplier. </li></ul><ul><li>There is (almost) no competition once an RFID supplier is chosen. </li></ul><ul><li>Many new products now available – but all proprietary. </li></ul><ul><li>Most RFID companies are committed to change this – but most librarians aren’t </li></ul>
    17. 17. What is to be done? <ul><li>Change the way it works </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common Data Standard </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Common Communication Framework </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Change the way you buy </li></ul>
    18. 18. A Common Data Standard
    19. 19. A Common Communication Framework
    20. 20. Change the way you buy <ul><li>Procurement needn’t be a major undertaking </li></ul><ul><li>Frameworks mitigate against change and increase costs. </li></ul><ul><li>Best practice and procurement guidelines are available. </li></ul><ul><li>Buy what you want – from whom you wish! </li></ul>
    22. 22. The Chip Manufacturer’s View <ul><li>“ RFID Puts Librarians Where They're Needed Most” </li></ul><ul><li>RFID technology is simple, robust and inexpensive. Each RFID label has a unique identification number and can be programmed with additional information such as type of media and storage location . </li></ul><ul><li>The tag is &quot;re-writeable&quot; so libraries don't have to replace a book’s digital identification tag when updating a book's status or flagging a book for reservation. In addition, libraries are finding new ways to take advantage of tagged items, such as gathering statistics on what items are most often used . </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.ti.com/rfid/shtml/apps-asset-tracking-library.shtml </li></ul>
    23. 23. The RFID Supplier’s View <ul><li>“ RFID Alliance to Unlock Library Potential”* </li></ul><ul><li>The benefits …could be instrumental to the wider public use of library facilities ... </li></ul><ul><li>Importantly for existing customers of the Alliance suppliers, each has committed to supporting their historical customer base with the move to the new standard as and when it should be required. </li></ul><ul><li>With the Alliance agreement in place, and with ISO/DIS 28560-2 setting the standard for all future tags, the next logical step is for libraries to act on this to further improve their services. </li></ul><ul><li>*Joint statement by 2CQR, 3M, Bibliotheca, D Tech, Intellident and Plescon - 2009 </li></ul>
    24. 24. The Librarian’s View? <ul><li>“ Currently I would see the main advantage of a data model as when/if we change supplier for our tags/equipment. One of my concerns would be what happens to the 800,000 books we have tagged using a propriety data model.” </li></ul><ul><li>(email from an unnamed University Librarian – May 2011) </li></ul>
    25. 25. The Market is Changing <ul><li>Mergers and partnership deals continue apace </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3M and Lyngsoe (US) August 2010 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bibliotheca and ITG (USA) April 2011 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bibliotheca and Intellident (UK) June 2011 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consolidation of data models now makes sense for corporations too </li></ul><ul><li>More open market = greater competition </li></ul>
    26. 26. … and so should the service <ul><li>RFID creates intelligent stock – using it only for self-service fails to deliver full ROI. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider automating accessions and returns, use wearable devices to manage stock, explore the possibilities of smart shelves and displays, interactive books – all now being deployed – but unavailable to most. </li></ul>
    27. 27. A Simple Manifesto for RFID? <ul><li>Standardise on a single data model (UKDM) </li></ul><ul><li>Support the work being done to improve communication between LMS/RFID </li></ul><ul><li>So that, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All suppliers can read each other’s tags </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competition increase </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Costs are reduced </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Purchasing becomes more straightforward </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Innovation is encouraged </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Service is improved </li></ul></ul>
    28. 28. Thank You! Mick Fortune Library RFID Ltd. t. +44 1865 727411 m. +44 7786 625544 e. mick@ libraryrfid.co.uk w. www.libraryrfid.co.uk b. www.mickfortune.com/Wordpress