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Interop Tests Bring EPCIS Closer to Standard

Interoperability testing performed this summer by EPCglobal's EPC Information Services working group proved successful.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 12, 2006In late summer 2006, EPCglobal completed its testing of prototypical software based on the EPC Information Services (EPCIS) specification. This set of protocols was designed to let end users of RFID technology exchange data with their supply-chain partners regarding the movement of EPC-tagged goods. The tests were an important step toward the ratification of the EPCIS specification as an EPC data standard. The specification is currently a candidate standard.

The specific goal of the tests was to ensure that different software products built on the candidate standard could interoperate, and that the specification was interpreted—and interpretable—in a consistent manner by all parties involved. To be an effective data standard, all software built on that standard needs to interpret each part of the specification consistently, so that if company A requests RFID read-event data from company B, the latter's EPCIS layer of software will easily recognize the request and reply to it in a standard data format.

"We invited every willing party from the EPCglobal community to join us," says Craig Asher, IBM software group product manager and cochair of the EPCglobal EPCIS working group, which developed the specification and conducted the testing. In addition to IBM, 11 other organizations attended the testing sessions: Auto-ID Labs Cambridge (which also hosted the tests), Avicon, BEA Systems, Bent Systems, GlobeRanger, Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ), NEC, Oracle, Polaris Networks, Samsung and T3Ci.

Eight of the above 12 companies submitted EPCIS-based software to the tests, while representatives from the other four observed the presentations, contributed comments and asked questions. Asher declined to reveal which companies entered their software, but IBM and a number of other companies involved in the tests, including BEA Systems, have released EPCIS software based on the current EPCIS candidate standard.

During the tests, the eight participants paired off and simulated real-world events that would exploit both the data-query and data-capture functions of the EPCIS software. "For example," says Asher, "one company would play the role of a manufacturer, and another would act as a distributor." They would request and exchange data pursuant to the EPCIS protocols, then switch roles and test the same queries and responses.

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