RuBee is the project name for a new RFID technology. Developed by Visible Assets, and now a candidate for anointing by IEEE as the P1902.1 standard, RuBee is or is not going to replace "traditional" RFID like the EPC Global standard. Here are some of the technical details:

RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand,
peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating
at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works
in harsh environments with networks of many thousands
of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet.

One of the advantages of long-wavelength technology
is that the radio tags can be low in cost, near credit
card thin (1.5 mm), and fully programmable using 4
bit processors. Despite their high functionality,
RuBee radio tags have a proven battery life of ten
years or more using low-cost, coin-size lithium batteries.
The RuBee protocol works with both active radio tags
and passive tags that have no battery.

IEEE P1902.1, "IEEE Standard for Long Wavelength
Wireless Network Protocol", will provide for
asset visibility networking that fills the gap between
the non-networked, non-programmable, backscattered,
RFID tags widely used for asset tracking and the high-bandwidth
radiating protocols for IEEE 802.11™ local area
networks and IEEE 802.15™ personnel area and
data networks.

IEEE P1902.1 will offer a "real-time, tag searchable"
protocol using IPv4 addresses and subnet addresses
linked to asset taxonomies that run at speeds of 300
to 9,600 Baud. RuBee Visibility Networks are managed
by a low-cost Ethernet enabled router. Individual
tags and tag data may be viewed as a stand-alone,
web server from anywhere in the world. Each RuBee
tag, if properly enabled, can be discovered and monitored
over the World Wide Web using popular search engines
(e.g., Google™) or via the Visible Asset's ".tag"
Tag Name Server.

The term "harsh environment" refers to the ability of RuBee to get accurate reads through or near liquids and metals - something traditional passive RFID can't do. A "visibility network" provides not only tracking capabilities, but the ability to update and maintain information about the asset as it moves through manufacturing, its subsequent life cycle, and eventual retirement. This information can also include physical parameters such as temperature or physical shocks. All this comes with an active tag with a 10 to 15 year battery life. Sounds like a good technology for tracking medical devices, eh?

The RuBee standard will support interoperation of RuBee tags, RuBee chips, RuBee network routers and other equipment. The backers of RuBee reportedly include Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Sony, Panasonic, Motorola and NCR.

One of the problems with current passive RFID tags is the read rate - the percentage of tags that are actually read when they pass by passive RFID readers. Current read rates average about 70 to 80 percent. In applications where special attention is given to reading all tags, read rates go up to the low 90s. RuBee offers much closer to a 100 percent read rate. What you give up with RuBee is speed - RFID UHF tags can be read at 150 to 200 tags per second. RuBee can do 10 reads per second.

Some are suggesting that RuBee may replace many passive RFID technology installations.

On one level, RuBee addresses the two most striking challenges with
today's RFID deployments: the lack of practical roadmaps to both
cost-effective item-level tagging and creative and pragmatic uses of
active tags to capture environmental data.

But a potentially more interesting rationale lies in the middle
of the politics of standards groups and of corporate bureaucracies.

The typical large corporation today has a culture that often undermines its efforts to do the right thing technologically.


CIOs need an excuse to be able to explore alternatives without
admitting failure. Hello, RuBee, you beautiful gem of an excuse to
explore alternatives to RFID without losing face—or job.

For more background, check out this eWeek story. Pictured right is a RuBee tag manufactured by Visible Assets.