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EPCglobal Ratifies EPCIS Standard

Designed to help companies securely exchange data with their business partners in real time, the new standard is expected to have a big impact on RFID's ROI.
By Beth Bacheldor
Apr 16, 2007With revisions, reviews and interoperability tests behind it, the Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) specification has been ratified by EPCglobal's board.

EPCIS is designed to help companies securely exchange RFID and related product data in real time with their business partners. EPCglobal executives say they expect its ratification to have a big impact on RFID adoption.

Procter & Gamble VP and EPC team leader Dick Cantwell says the EPCIS standard will unlock the full potential of EPC communications. "For some time," he says, "RFID has come under scrutiny because, even though manufacturers have been putting tags on goods and retailers have been receiving those tagged goods, the question has still been, what is the value? What EPCIS does is connect data sharing and communications in a way that benefits both the manufacturers and the retailers. They both can maximize the value they get from RFID information. It is no longer a closed-loop solution."

The EPCIS protocol serves as the communication mechanism between applications and data repositories from which a company can effectively exchange and query data within its own RFID processes and those of its partners. The EPCIS standard automates the exchange of RFID data as well, because it allows for machine-to-machine communications.

Without the standard, companies would have to develop their own mechanisms for exchanging and querying data with each individual trading partner. "Everybody is looking to remove complexities and duplication from their business systems," says Paul Fox, P&G's external relations leader, "because what comes with complexities and duplication is cost."

Mike Meranda, president of EPCglobal North America, calls the EPCIS standard "the third leg of the stool that delivers on the EPC Global Network." The EPCglobal Network is essentially a standards-based network of technologies and services created to enable companies to retrieve data associated with EPCs. He says the other two legs, or standards, critical to the EPCglobal Network are the UHF Gen 2 air-interface standard and the EPC Tag Data specification. "The EPCglobal Network is really about sharing information—about letting trading partners share information—and EPCIS is what makes that happen."

Ideas for the standard began surfacing about four years ago, Meranda explains. A formal group was formed about 18 months ago, which based its work on input from P&G and other retailers, including Wal-Mart and Unilever North America, as well as from technology providers such as IBM.

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