When you first begin trying to learn the language of radio-frequency identification (RFID) and electronic-data capture in the cattle business, understanding two terms could be the difference between having lots of product options or none at all.

Specifically, ISO 11784 and ISO 11785 are tempting to skip over because they sound so technical, and they are. But all you really need to know about them is this: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-government organization that has become the gold standard for establishing technical standards for various products and services.

All similar products and services, no matter where they are manufactured or provided around the world, must meet these common standards to qualify for compliance. The notion is that if you utilize an ISO-compliant product or service here in the U.S., it also will be in compliance anywhere in the world.

Moreover, ISO standards create a common means for communication when it comes to describing the technical aspects of specific products and services. Thus, both suppliers and users know what to expect if compliance is met.

Think of it like an international breed registry. By adopting common standards, no matter where in the world you purchased a bull of a particular breed, you would know what standards it was held to and what you can expect in terms of performance.

In the case of RFID, ISO 11784 sets the international standard for the data structure that is acceptable on transponders (electronic ear tags). Consequently, a producer using ISO-compliant tags is ensuring those tags will fit within any ISO-compliant system. The alternative is using a non-compliant tag that may or may not be accepted within other systems.

Likewise, ISO 11785 defines the acceptable common technical standards of low radio frequency that must exist between transponders and transceivers (readers) in compliant devices. In order to qualify as an ISO 11785-compliant reader, devices must be able to read both ISO-compliant full-duplex and half-duplex transponders (see “Mix And Match” p. 18).

Furthermore, as new technologies come along, those not yet falling within current ISO standards come with an added element of risk — if these standards are never developed for the technology, that may limit their widespread adoption.

What ISO Is

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer of standards. The standards contribute to making the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner, while making trade between countries easier and fairer.

They provide governments with a technical base for health, safety and environmental legislation. They aid in transferring technology to developing countries. ISO standards also safeguard consumers and users of products and services, as well as making life simpler.

ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 147 countries — one member per country — with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, to coordinate the system.

ISO is a non-governmental organization occupying a special position between the public and private sectors. It's a bridge across which consensus can be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. ISO standards are voluntary, market-driven, are based on consensus of interested parties and are technical agreements that provide the framework for compatible technology worldwide. For more on ISO, visit http://www.iso.ch/iso/en/ISOOnline.frontpage.