Various questions concerning the activities and organization, and also the technologies of the T-Engine Forum and Ubiquitous ID Center are sent into the T-Engine Forum. In this feature, we have attempted to gather together responses to the frequent questions among those as a FAQ.
Q1 What kind of organization is the T-Engine Forum? Is it an NPO corporate body?
It is a non-profit, private organization with University of Tokyo Prof. Ken Sakamura as its chairman.
Q2 What's its relationship with the TRON Association?
Both have a common point in that they are carrying out research and development and popularization activities of the computer architecture University of Tokyo Prof. Ken Sakamura advocates, but the T-Engine Forum is a separate organization.
Q3 The relationship with the Ubiquitous ID Center?
The Ubiquitous ID Center has been established inside the T-Engine Forum. Also, T-Engine Forum A members and e members are promoting activities concerning the Ubiquitous ID Center.
Q4 Are there such things as forum regulations and license provisions in the T-Engine Forum?
As for forum regulations, there are the T-Engine Forum's articles. These establish policy (IPR policy) in regard intellectual property rights at the time of standardization and the handling of information submitted in the process of deliberations inside the forum.
Q5 What is the term of validity for the annual membership fee?
The annual membership of the T-Engine Forum is valid for a period of one year, from April until the end of March of the following year. Concerning the first year, from the date joined until March 31 is the period of validity. Furthermore, there is no admission fee.
Q6 Are there conditions in regard to joining?
We have made corporate bodies the subject for A members, B members, and e members alike. As a rule, there is no system of individual membership.
As for academic members, we have made as the subject organizations where they carry out education and training concerning T-Engine and Ubiquitous ID technologies in universities, high level technical schools, and the like. It is possible to join at the unit of the university, faculty, department, or laboratory.
Q7 Our company is not an electronic device maker, and it's not affiliated with the information industry either; won't there be problems after joining?
Of course, there will not be any problems. If there are also firms that are joining in cases where they will put Ubiquitous ID technologies to use as e members, there are also firms that are joining in cases where they will utilize the technologies and products that the A members and B members offer. As for e members, there are also a lot of firms that are entirely unconcerned with the information industry; they have formed into a so-called different industrial types group.
Q8 What are the differences among the A members B members, and e members?
A members are members that decide on the specifications of T-Engine and T-Kernel themselves and develop them, and, also, they decide the Ubiquitous ID technology specifications and carry out development. In particular, the board members are firms that want to deeply involve themselves in the activities of the T-Engine Forum.
B members are members that promote standardization having to do with the popularization of T-Engine. In other words, it is the rank of user members who develop products by utilizing T-Engine and T-Kernel.
E members are members who promote standardization having to do with the Ubiquitous ID Center, and they carry out activities that concern the application of Ubiquitous IDs and activities that concern validation testing.
Q9 Are there differences in such things as the information obtained depending on each membership level?
There are. IPR policy, licenses, promotions, etc., which have to do with the overall running of the forum, are obtained by the board members; technical specifications from the respective decision stages are obtained by the A members. B members carry out activities on the basis of information that has been respectively decided, but they can obtain it in advance of release to the general public. E members can obtain Ubiquitous ID and ucode information as soon as A members decide it in working groups (hereafter WGs). In other words, there is a priority level difference of information obtained in the order of board members → A members → B members → e members → general public, and that is an advantage at each member type.
Q10 The difference between B members and e members?
In a word, a B member is a member that deals with "T-Engine and T-Kernel," and an e member with "Ubiquitous ID technology and ucode tags." Because the fields they deal with are different, we differentiate their member types. In the case of a single organization (or department) that will develop and decide upon both technologies, it will become an A member. If it's a situation in which a single organization will utilize both technologies, it is necessary to have them become both a B member and an e member.
Q11 What kinds of merits are there if our company becomes an A member?
Q12 Our firm is a company engaged in the development of embedded middleware; what type member would it be good to become?
If your firm is a company that develops and markets middleware products on top of T-Engine, then A member or B member would be good.
Q13 What is EAP that A members and e members can utilize?
Experimental Activity Procedure (EAP) is a system in which the Ubiquitous ID Center supports ucode tag-related verification experiments of the T-Engine Forum's A members and e members.
Q14 Is it possible to change your membership type after becoming a member?
Q15 What types of activities are you carrying out in the forum?
The T-Engine Forum holds general meetings of members about four times a year, board meetings and section meetings that are held once a month, and, as occasion demands, WGs in response to various types of themes; plus, it is carrying out activities, such as research and development and promotions, concerning the whole of ubiquitous computing through T-Engine, T-Kernel, etc.. Also, the forum is planning various types of training classes in the future.
Q16 What types of activities are you carrying out in section meetings?
The section meetings are limited to A members. These are central meetings for the purpose of carrying out research activities and to promote the development of the respective technologies. As a rule, they are held once a month, and there are also occasions where the contents of WG discussions and the progress of work are reported on, and standards and guidelines are authorized. Also, respective technologies, components, and their prospects are widely collected, and related technology trends are explained.
Q17 What types of activities are you carrying out in WGs?
A WG is a place of work for the purpose of deciding upon drafts of standards and guidelines, and sharing of the work accompanies participation. In order to attain a specific objective, a WG is organized with a definite term limit, and it is formed and dissolved in response to a specific mission decided in a section meeting. Although we have made holding WG meetings once a month the standard, they can be held in accordance with need, and they are executed by sharing the actual work. WGs also are limited to A members, but if surveys and the collection of data are the purpose, it is probably sufficient to do this through section meeting participation.
Q18 What types of activities do you carry out in general member meetings?
We have set B member general member meetings and e member general member meetings on the order of four times a year, and at them we report on such things as the latest information, section meeting information, WG information, the status of activities, and the status of the industry.
Q19 The method for participating in section meetings and WGs?
First, make a registration request from the Web to the section meeting or WG you would like to participate in.
- That you are an A member is the condition with both section meetings and WGs.
- Section meetings and WGs are organizations independent of each other, and when you register with a section meeting, there is no obligation to register with the WG below it. Moreover, even at the time of registration with a WG, there is also no obligation to register with the section meeting above it.
After approval by a board member meeting, by means of processing at the secretariat, registering to participate from the Web becomes possible.
Method of participating in meetings after having registered with a section meeting or working group
- First, when the schedule for holding the section meeting or working group is decided, an announcement of the holding of the meeting will be communicated via mail to the window in charge of members, and it will become possible that you will be able to register for participation from the Web.
Q20 How can we obtain such things as the latest information, specifications, and various types of documents?
After joining, because it becomes possible to access the member only home pages of each member type, obtaining information on the respective pages will become possible.
Q21 Do you release to the public things that have been standardized in the T-Engine Forum?
We will release to the general public at the stage where we have completely settled the contents of a specification. However, at the draft stage, we will not release things externally. The T-Engine Forum has made as a premise the opening of standardized specifications, but obstructions to the popularization of standardization through the spread of falsely similar products, etc., becomes a worry with release at a stage where vagueness remains in a specification. For that reason, we have adopted a system in which we distribute specifications at the draft stage to members only, and in which we go on to settle the details of the specification after having someone develop test products and carrying out testing on them.
Q22 Are there also English versions of the specifications decided upon in standardization and various types of documents?
We will create Japanese versions and English versions of all the materials we release to the public. In the future, depending on the increase in the number of members and the state of the expansion of overseas bases, we will support multiple languages, with Chinese versions, Korean versions, etc.
Q23 Is it possible to obtain materials by downloading them?
We will make it so that it is possible to obtain through downloading all the specifications we draw up in the T-Engine Forum. Furthermore, in regard to downloading, we are carrying out a division of levels into for members and for the general public. This division of levels is in accordance with above-mentioned Q21.
Q24 What are the Ubiquitous ID technologies?
They are information technologies that provide higher level information services and environmental controls by embedding barcodes, electronic tags, and ultra-small computers into our various personal belongings and automatically recognizing the information that has been stored there.
Q25 What are the details of the Ubiquitous ID Center's activities?
Q26 What is a ucode?
A ucode is the "only number in the world" (a unique ID) given one by one for the purpose of identifying "things" and "places." We call a data carrier device (barcode, RFID, active chip, smart card, etc.) in which we store the ucode a ucode tag. The basic code for ucodes is 128 bits in length, and, in accordance with need, it is possible to extend it in units of 128 bits.
Q27 Is all the information about a thing entered into the ucode tag?
As for certified ucode tags, outside of electronic tags that we can read from and write onto, there are also electronic tags for read-out only, and barcodes. We store information that cannot be stored on the tags on the network server side (databases).
Q28 Even though different identification code (ID) systems exist, the thing that can cope with those is ucode?
Exactly--ucode is a meta code system. It internally includes various code types, and we use it by distinguishing those. Our way of thinking is "weak standardization" in which on top of stressing locality, we make possible communication by connecting in between through the power of computers.
Q29 Please tell me the reason why wireless tags have been classified into various types.
There is no "super tag" that can do anything at a single frequency on a single tag. It's the same thing as there being everything from jet planes to automobiles among vehicles. There are both applications where being cheap is important, and applications where security is stressed even though the cost is high. Even with the same ticket, there is everything from the platinum ticket of a famous artist to a lottery ticket of a neighborhood association. Also, in the case of RFIDs, outside of cost and security, there are diverse types depending on such things as the reach range, materials to which is should be attached to, whether it itself should be rewriteable, and whether there should be a battery or not. In the ucode tag system at the Ubiquitous ID Center, we have broadly classified these diverse tags mainly based on the point of view of security. This is for the purpose of making it possible for the user to select the optimal tag for his own use by looking at which class the respective tag belongs to.
Q30 In ucode, there exist various classes; are their respective frequencies and communication protocols different?
Basically, multiple types are included in the ucode tag frequency bands and communication protocols. It's not a matter of anything being all right, rather we certify tags as ucode tags in line with standards decided on in line with the policy below. First, a major premise is that the frequency band and strength of the electromagnetic waves used in communication satisfy the legal restrictions of the region in which those tags will be used. In regard to communications protocols, in accordance with the answer in Q29, it is all right if there are various ones. However, it will come about that the user cannot avoid being conscious of the communication protocol differences of the tags in the world, and thus replacing the reader/writer devices in keeping with that ought to be avoided from the viewpoint of convenience. For that reason, being able to read with a single ucode tag reader/writer device like the Ubiquitous Communicator (UC) is important. Also, if that can be realized technically, then we think it is all right even if multiple different communications protocols exist. In other words, if the technology that makes it possible to cope with multiple communication protocols on the UC side advances, then it will become possible to certify more diverse communications protocols. In this manner, Ubiquitous ID Center tag standardization is characterized on the point that it is linked the technical development of the tag interface device.
Q31 Have you adopted as is the RFID international standard communications technology that the ISO has decided on?
We haven't adopted it as is, but we also have no intention of rejecting the ISO tag. We have adopted the parts in the ISO standard that can be used.
As for the reason we cannot adopt it as is, it is because ISO18000 assumes cases in which basically the same business will operate in its sphere of responsibility, and thus it is not a specification for unifying social infrastructure in its entirety. In other words, because ISO18000 hasn't taken into consideration these tags being supplied throughout society, in the complete life cycle from the production of products to their disposal, exactly a vision of the future in which there will be "utilization in a ubiquitous society," we cannot adopt it as is as the standard specification of ucode tags. In particular, a viewpoint concerning the guaranteeing of security and the privacy of information stored in RFIDs is lacking in the ISO standard, and our thinking is that we would like to precisely deal with this portion in settling on the ucode tag standard.
Q32 From the problems of issuing IDs and managing them, and problems such as cost--for example, attaching IC tags to all the merchandise a supermarket sells--in other words, that IC tags will come into substitute existence for the existing two-dimensional barcodes seems hardly realistic.
We also believe so. Accordingly, our ucode tags also include printed tags, such as a two-dimensional barcode.
Q33 What is the Ubiquitous Communicator?
The Ubiquitous Communicator (hereafter UC) is a general purpose communication terminal in a ubiquitous computing environment. There are various forms of it, such as a PDA type, a cell-phone type, and a wristwatch type, but the characteristic of the UC is that it is equipped with the following three communication functions in whatever form.
Q34 Are there plans for verification trials that have been scheduled?
Many verifications trials have been scheduled, including such ones as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport's "Autonomous Movement Support Project" and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' "FY2005 Food Traceability Development Project." We have released the details to the public on our home page (http://uidcenter.org/english/projects.html).
The above article on T-Engine appeared on pages 42-45 in Vol. 89 of TRONWARE . It was translated and loaded onto this Web page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.
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Copyright © 2004 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo