Last week I accepted a long-standing invitation to visit Bibliotheca’s impressive new facilities in Cheadle Hulme. Happily for me the meeting (almost) exactly coincided with the launch of their latest library products. More »
Since writing yesterday’s roundup I have been advised of another product that is being developed for use with smartphones – this time by Bibliotheca. Their latest edition of BiblioNews gives details of a prototype app that uses NFC (now appearing in a smartphone near you) to enable library users to issue their own books using their own phones. You can see it in operation here.
NFC is widely tipped to be the “hot ticket” over the next year or so. Plans to use its cashless payment capabilities are already well established in a number of other markets so library fines and fee payments shouldn’t be too difficult to manage – given some co-operation from the management systems providers.
Bibliotheca are applying for patent protection for this innovation – which could ultimately mean “game over ” for self-service kiosk providers and huge savings for libraries. I’m told it handles security and connects directly to the ILS(LMS) too. Wonder how much longer that will be needed… More »
The following press release was issued at 2pm UK time today (1st June 2011)
“From 1st June 2011, the two separate UK business units of Intellident Ltd and Bibliotheca Ltd, together with Intellident’s French subsidiary (Ident SAS), will combine into a single company (Intellident Ltd). Backed financially by One Equity Partners (OEP), a division of JPMorgan Chase & Co, this new company becomes part of the Bibliotheca Group (Cham, Switzerland), including the recently merged Bibliotheca ITG in North America. More »
Earlier this week I mentioned that Bibliotheca have announced a new memorandum of understanding with Civica.
Last night I was delighted to see the following reply from Johannes Rogg, Managing Director of Bibliotheca’s UK company posted on the UK RFID list:
Thanks for your valuable comments. I fully agree with your statement, that HF is currently the frequency of choice for libraries; this is a main reason for this announcement.
With regards to your question on encryption I have no idea where this rumour is coming from, but Bibliotheca currently supplies to specification required by customer and market and our standard supply is the Danish data model with no encryption. Our BiblioChip technology enables us to support multiple data models in the same deployment and to rewrite chips on new models including the upcoming ISO standard on the fly.
One more word to you blog entry from yesterday, which I enjoyed reading very much:
You say. “To overcome this gap Civica is partnering with Bibliotheca to offer our fully standardized HF solution based on the BiblioChip technology and our experience and proactive standardization policy in this area.”
…which appears to imply that all Civica’s existing HF based installations are not standards based.”
As you know UK market is relatively standardised and will be more so when we can adopt the ISO standard and the UK profile. World-wide things are broader and its important for Bibliotheca as a world-wide player to meet these requirements whether for tags, interfacing standards or elsewhere.
Equally as a supplier it makes our life easier of standards are adopted so please keep evangelising standard such as ISO 28560-2. Success in broadening adoption is good for libraries and suppliers and will reduce costs for all in the longer term.
Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems Ltd.
I posted a brief reply to the list but as most of the points he was answering related to those made here I thought it might be helpful to post his reply here as well.
I asked whether Bibliotheca encrypted any of their data – a question we asked everyone who attended the meetings that established the UK data model back in 2009. Bibliotheca had not been present at that meeting so it seemed reasonable to ask them now. Apparently there is a rumour going around that some Bibliotheca sites have encrypted data. Well frankly it’s a bit more than a rumour – some libraries with Bibliotheca systems do have encrypted data (they have written to tell me so) - but no-one seems to know why. To be fair to Johannes he says that they prefer to adhere to standards – but also implies that they will always do whatever the customer tells them.
I’ve heard that argument from other suppliers.
Now I happen to believe that many librarians aren’t very sure of their ground here (because they tell me they’re not) and that many have previously asked for things that aren’t necessarily a good idea. I also happen to think that suppliers have a duty of care to advise when an idea might not be such a good one. I’ve lost a lot of business that way .
My main point – that Civica already have an HF RFID solution in the UK – wasn’t really answered at all. Instead I am reminded that it’s a big world and people elsewhere have different needs (with no apparent irony) and that Bibliotheca have a product that meets all of them. Readers with long memories may remember that I commented on this product when it was launched in the US. No-one answered my concerns at the time, maybe they will now?
An announcement curiously dated 9th February 2010 (presumably released at VALA in Melbourne?) has been reported by the excellent Marshall Breeding on the Library Technology Guides website today.
The announcement contains the following paragraph:
“Civica and Bibliotheca will collaborate on the technology development of their respective RFID-enabled library solutions enabling tight integration into the Civica Spydus suite of library solutions. The tight integration with the Civica Spydus solutions will eliminate the use of unwieldy interface protocols and will realise significantly higher levels of efficiency, speed and automation opportunities for library customers as well as the possibility for closer integration into external solutions such as finance management.
Bibliotheca and Civica will both be able to offer UHF and HF RFID Library Systems providing libraries with enhanced efficiency, productivity gains and flexibility. This provides libraries with increased choice and performance over comparable RFID-enabled library solutions currently on offer.”
This must be some kind of record for raising so many issues in such a short statement. UK clients of Civica and Axiell will be among those with some questions to ask one would imagine. The current co-operation between Civica and Intellident that I heard about only last week looks a little shakier all of a sudden.
But most of all the throwaway references to “unwieldy protocols” and the implied combination of UHF and HF technologies in the future gives me considerable pause for thought.
What does it mean? An end to reliance on SIP perhaps – but UK suppliers – including Bibliotheca, Civica and Axiell are scheduled to discuss that very topic in three weeks from now. So how will this agreement affect those discussions?
Or do they mean and end (even before they begin) to standards? Australia (where this announcement was presumably made) has a number of Civica libraries using UHF-based RFID systems as we learned at the London conference in 2009. We also learned – from the world’s leading manufacturer of RFID chips – that UHF was an unsuitable technology for library use and yet here are two of the world’s largest suppliers announcing their ability to provide both.
Now we all know that UHF and HF don’t work together, and that UHF is currently incapable of supporting the international library data standard. So how will this new arrangement increase choice?
Perhaps my Australian readers can offer an explanation? Or at least go and ask Civica and Bibliotheca what this announcement really means.
The following press release from Carolyn Long at the McOnie Agency reached me via a somewhat circuitous route this evening.
Informally I learned some time ago that a statement of this kind was being planned by the UK’s main RFID suppliers some time ago but one company was apparently not co-operating at that point in time so the message has been delayed until now.
It is obviously good news for the UK library community that the main suppliers have seen fit to back up the commitments they made back in January and April (and widely reported on this blog, the UK RFID list and by BIC and CILIP at the time).
It seems a pity that the suppliers felt unable to recognise the huge contribution that BIC, CILIP and the library community have made to this process but we should all rejoice in the news and look forward to even greater co-operation as we move to the next phase of RFIED development. BIC announced today (by an amazing coincidence precisely one minute earlier than this email was sent out!) that the RFID group will meet again early in the new year to review the data transfer protocols driving the new standard.
3M’s announcement follows:-
3M joins other major players to support adoption of technology in UK libraries
For the first time in the UK market, an alliance of leading library suppliers including diversified technology company 3M, 2CQR, Axiell, Bibliotheca, D-Tech, Intellident, and Plescon Security Products, have come together to support the ISO 28560 tag data standard and the UK National Profile that relates to how this will be implemented in UK. The soon-to-be-released standard will help Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) take a huge step towards becoming a universally adopted technology in UK libraries.
In forming the Alliance, each member has committed to help deliver ISO-based solutions to the library community and achieve the ultimate goal to make all library items interchangeable between libraries, regardless of the self-service equipment deployed. The benefits of this agreement could be instrumental to the wider public use of library facilities, as the loaning and returning items could be completed at different venues, allowing for much greater flexibility.
The move to form an Alliance has been made possible by the development of the new standard from the global ISO standards body. ISO/DIS 28560 relates to how information is stored on an RFID tag and, as a result, all new tags can be read in the same way, allowing interoperability of disparate self-service solutions.
The agreement is a breakthrough for the use of RFID technology in libraries as it will provide a single standard that every member can work to. The Alliance between these leading vendors demonstrates that although competing at a solution level, they share a common belief in promoting standards and recognise that tagged items should be interchangeable between libraries.
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 required.
With the Alliance agreement in place and 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. The development and wider acceptance of RFID is growing at a pace, with the UK now the market leader in the deployment of innovative technology.
Paul Sevcik, Senior Product Development Specialist for 3M and a member of the ISO working group responsible for the standards comments: “The development of the ISO 28560 family of standards is critical to the continued growth of RFID applications in libraries and to providing a return on the library’s investment in RFID. We are very excited about this Alliance and the commitment of the players involved, to make interoperability a reality for our customers.”
Members of the Alliance will be in attendance at the RFID in Libraries Conference, organised by CILIP and sponsored by 3M, which takes place on 10 November 2009 in London.
3M is a leading supplier of technology solutions to libraries. The company offers a wide range of options to suit all libraries, including RFID systems, SelfCheck systems, Tattle-Tape Security technology and applications, detection systems and circulation accessories.
Interesting post from Catherine Dhanjal on the lists this afternoon announcing their intentions.
From other correspondence received it seems clear that the “rough wooing” of existing D Tech clients has begun in earnest with Newcastle now being singled out already as a key Bibliotheca site.
How this pans out in contractual and support terms is, of course, entirely a matter for the parties involved and hopefully solutions that suit client’s needs will be paramount in everyone’s mind as the story develops.
From my own perspective – and increasingly from the point of view of all those who seek to create more co-operative service models in the future there are still one or two slight concerns niggling at the back of my mind.
Last week I was delighted to report that progress toward the publication of ISO 28560 in all three parts was proceeding as rapidly as could be expected. The creation of a common foundation for RFID development is in my opinion, as regular readers will know, key for both library co-operation and future service development so anything that might prevent us from achieving that goal makes me nervous.
I wrote to Matthias Joos expressing my concern that Bibliotheca’s web pages gave strong endorsement to ISO 28560-3 with no mention of the UK’s preferred option of 28560-2 and he was quick to reassure me that Bibliotheca intend to support both versions.
He also used the opportunity to promote the same “dual data model” self-service kiosk that I have already criticised on these pages (when D Tech took me to task for doing so!).
This is the kiosk that can convert data models “on the fly”. The claim is made that by using it you can convert all your stock in 3-4 months.
My question previously ”how do you manage the stock that isn’t circulated in this period?” wasn’t answered then either. From the responses I’ve had to the question I asked earlier in the week it seems that only a small percentage of stock would have been circulated in 3-4 months, leaving a huge amount unconverted.
Since self-service is only one aspect of RFID stock management how does a library identify which items on the shelf have which model? The answer that most UK RFID suppliers seem to have reached is to enable all their devices to read two models. Hopefully that will be Bibliotheca’s conclusion as well.
This is a minor concern though. The phrase that worries me in the press release is “… supplying customer-specific state-of the art RFID solutions” (my emphasis). I’m sure it’s more a question of ”lost in translation” rather than indicating a return to a proprietary approach but I really hope it doesn’t mean that libraries will be encouraged to operate outside of the new standard.
Those concerns aside it is of course good news for UK libraries that another major player has arrived – and just in time for the November conference too! I’m really looking forward to meeting them there!
New alert on Twitter this morning linking to a new story on the Library Technology Guides website:
“Bibliotheca announced non-proprietary “on-the-fly” RFID conversion software that allows libraries equipped with barcodes the flexibility to convert to RFID at the self-check station or book return as patrons complete routine check-out/check-in of library materials. The RFID conversion software helps unburden libraries from the amount of time, labor and cost needed to convert entire collections from barcodes to RFID. Bibliotheca’s flexible, patent-pending BiblioChip conversion software will work with Bibliotheca’s line of self-check stations and book returns, as well as products from other vendors.”
A quick scan of Bibliotheca’s website fails to reveal the original story but hopefully it’s me, not the website that’s up too early in the day.
The solution on offer offers:
- Smooth implementation of new data formats as they evolve
- Simultaneous reading of multiple formats
- Reading/writing of different vendor formats
- Reading/writing of older, non-standard chips
There would seem to be little that has been overlooked in the wish list of most librarians struggling to make sense of emerging standards, competing frequencies, data models and data content and hybrid solutions.
The focus for this operation is self-service. Items are read, re-programmed and processed in one smooth operation at the point of issue or return. A “hybrid” self-service variant will even manage electromagnetic security at the same time. However no mention is made of how other library operattions will interoperate with blank tags for example.
There are a few questions that spring to mind to which the article, and the Bibliotheca website, offer no answers at the moment. Off the top of my head at 7am these include:
- What is the impact on processing time of simultaneously reading and writing multiple formats at the pointm of issue?
- How does the system identify which EM tagged items in a stack it should activate/deactivate?
- How do borrowers know which items have been RFID processed already? (Or do they continue to read barcodes, one at a time forever? In which case what’s the point of RFID?)
- How do shelf reading operations cope with multiple formats – or items that haven’t been borrowed yet?
- How do consortia circulate stock if they’re not using Bibliotheca hardware?
I confess to being a little diappointed that one of the major RFID suppliers has developed a solution that seeks to circumvent a common standard rather than endorse it, particularly as the rest of the UK market is so close to agreement on a national standard. Perhaps the absence of Bibliotheca’s UK representatives (D Tech) from the January 19th meeting was more significant than I realised at the time?
Whilst appreciating the sales appeal of a “one size fits all” solution, I’m not sure if this solution delivers on that promise. Perhaps things will become clearer soon…