TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

The T-Engine Forum and the Ubiquitous ID Center held a world press conference on June 23, 2003, during which they announced that the Ubiquitous ID Center had carried out certification of ultra small-scale chips-cum-electronic tags that will be utilized in ubiquitous computing environments. This announcement is extremely important as the first step toward the construction of the ubiquitous computing environments that we are aiming at. The chips that were certified on this occasion possess an on-chip data format that is the same as the Ubiquitous ID Center specified. They are initialized at the time of manufacture in accordance with rules the center specifies, and, furthermore, we guarantee that access can commence with standard means of polling. At present, there are nine levels of specifications. The lowest level (Class 0) are bar codes, and the highest level (Class 8) are servers. Between those, we have specified a very wide range of devices, which includes electronic tags called RFIDs (Class 1, 2), smart tags corresponding to smart cards (Class 3, 4), and active tags that possess a self-generation mechanism (Class 5, 6).

Three chips were certified on this occasion: the Hitachi "µ-chip" [myu-chip], the Toppan Publishing "T-Junction," and the Renesas Technology "eTRON/16-AE45X;" the former two belong to Class 1, which are tags exclusively used for read-out, and the AE45X corresponds to Class 4, which are smart tags onto which we integrate a CPU core, encryption circuits, etc.

Why is certification important? It's because by having all nodes in ubiquitous computing networks made in conformance with certification specifications, the tag information are read with a standard reader device called a Ubiquitous Communicator, they are then sent to a server where we carry out an address solution that requires an address, and then the contents corresponding to the number entered in the chip are obtained from the address obtained from there--and the above types of operations are secured across the entire system.

This type of certification is perhaps the first in the world. From the start, the T-Engine project is not for a single vendor; if the standards are satisfied, diverse products from makers throughout the world will be accepted. Therefore, I believe that certification is very important in order to mix together and use chips supplied by different hardware vendors.

Recently, things involving the Ubiquitous ID Center have become very hurried, and some of these have been reported also in the mass media. However, there are several problems. In Japan, in accordance with specifications that the ISO decided, 13.56 MHz has been allotted mainly for smart card use (doubles for use in electronic tags), and 2.45 GHz for electronic tag use. Because the 915 MHz band is being used for electronic tags in the U.S., for example, a leadership struggle with the 915 MHz band standard that MIT's Auto-ID Center is pushing is reported. However, this does not strike us as a very meaningful thing to point out. Stating that we are struggling for leadership solely on the basis of the frequency to be utilized is something people who do not understand the situation of electronic tags would say. As for electronic tag frequencies the ISO has decided for passive chips that do not possess batteries, there are more than 10 wavelengths; frequencies are determined in accordance with the purpose of use and the target to which it is attached, the range it is possible to attain, or factors that affect electromagnetic waves, such as water and metal. There is not much meaning to a simple struggle over merely whether to use 915 MHz or 2.45 GHz. In each country, there are radio laws, and there are also historical details and various local circumstances, so I do not think there is much meaning in making everything the same. Rather than that, we ought to aim more attention at technical developments that actively overcome these types of differences in each nation. We have finished test manufacturing a Ubiquitous Communicator that can read three bands, 13.56 MHz, the 900 MHz band, and 2.45 GHz; and even among the chips, the Toppan Printing T-Junction that was certified on this occasion is an RFID chip that responds to a wide range of frequencies from 915 MHz to 2.45 GHz. By means of technical advancements, it is possible to absorb the local differences of each country concerning frequencies, and by all means I would like to stress that wedding ourselves to a single world standard is not something that is very meaningful.

Well, it was something that happened quickly, but at the point of the end of June 2003, the number of companies in the T-Engine Forum broke through the 200 level. That it will attain the 300 company level by the end of the current fiscal year is firstly probably without a doubt. We are resolved to continue to transmit to the world open technologies that will serve as infrastructure for ubiquitous computing environments. In regard to the ubiquitous computing market that will probably grow extraordinarily from here on, our technology based on an open architecture will make great contributions, and I hope that we will be able to take the initiative.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 82 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

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Copyright © 2003 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo