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Aerospace ID to Launch RFID Trials in 2007

The industry-led research organization is studying EPC-compatible ID numbers for aircraft parts, as well as the creation of information search service to reveal a part's life-cycle history.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 11, 2006About a year ago, the Auto-ID Lab at the University of Cambridge formed the Aerospace ID Technologies Program to develop the potential for RFID and other ID technologies in the aerospace sector (see U.K. Auto-ID Lab Looks at Aerospace). Since then, the industry-led group has launched a number of projects. These include a technical proposal for an Electronic Product Code (EPC)-compatible unique identification number for RFID tags used in the aerospace industry, taking into account existing ID numbers already used for aerospace parts and components.

"The Aerospace ID Technologies Program builds upon our past experience with networked RFID for the retail sector, but this time we are focusing on the specific challenges involved with deployment in the aerospace sector," says Mark Harrison, associate director of the Auto-ID Lab at the University of Cambridge.

Victor Prodonoff
The program developed this technical proposal in close cooperation with the Air Transport Association (ATA) and its RFID on Parts project team. The team working on life-cycle ID and data-management projects at the Auto-ID Lab has sent the proposal for the EPC-compatible ID number to the ATA for review. This proposal incorporates the ATA < http://www.spec2000.com/ Spec 2000> standard, the commercial aviation industry standard for the permanent identification of parts, the identification of shipping and receiving information, and traceability. According to Victor Prodonoff, Aerospace ID Technologies Program's director, the team will forward the final proposal to the EPCglobal aerospace and defense industry action group, set to launch in early 2007, with a request for evaluation and adoption.

A second project moving forward is the design of look-up services for the aerospace industry, which Prodonoff calls a " Google for parts." The life-cycle history of an aircraft part is scattered across several organizations, he adds. For example, an aircraft part may have a service life in excess of 30 years, during which time a large number of organizations may handle the part and record data about it. This includes the original equipment manufacturer, the airframe builder, the airline operating the aircraft and maintenance providers. Look-up services will maintain a series of pointers to these individual databases, allowing a person seeking information about a part to query the individual organizations for details.

"This, of course, differs from Google, in that access to information would be restricted to legitimate stakeholders in the part's life cycle, and not be open to the general public," Prodonoff says. "The architecture allows each organization to set the controls regarding who is allowed to access their data."

Afilias, a Dublin-based company that provides Internet domain-name registry services, approached the Aerospace ID program, became a member and created a working prototype of the look-up service. The company operates the registry and resolution services for the .info and .aero top-level domain names, and also offers Afilias' RFID Discovery Services Network, which enables supply chain managers to receive and share business intelligence from a variety of data sources. Trials of the prototype will commence in early 2007.

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