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Afilias Offering Free RFID Discovery Service

SITA is the first taker of Afilias' offer, and two of its member airports are set to test the service this summer as part of a baggage-handling trial.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 08, 2007Afilias, a provider of Internet registry services, says it is making its Discovery Services offering available free to companies piloting RFID technology and data-sharing systems throughout 2007.

Discovery Services is one of the elements laid out by EPCglobal in its vision for the EPCglobal Network, through which data associated with RFID tags can be accessed via the Internet. Users must subscribe to a secure database to access information regarding a specific EPC. A subscribing company decides how much information to allow other companies to access regarding its EPCs, and it can also discriminate by allowing some subscribers access to more data than others. The goal of Discovery Services is to provide supply chain partners a standard, easy way to determine where an EPC-tagged item has been since its introduction to the supply chain, as well as information regarding the item's condition or changes to that condition.

Afilias provides registry services for the .info, .org, .mobi (for sites accessed by cell phones and other mobile devices) and .aero (for the aerospace industry) domain names. The company hopes its Discovery Services platform, which it calls the Extensible Supply-Chain Discovery Service (ESDS), will become an industry standard. "We have submitted the specifications for ESDS to EPCglobal," says Ram Mohan, Afilias' vice president of business operations and chief technology officer, "as the Discovery Service standard for the EPCglobal Network."

Afilias built the specification on open-source software, Mohan says. The company's revenue model for the ESDS is not based on licensing the software, but rather on collecting transactions fees from end users based on the EPC lookups they perform. For the rest of this year, however, Afilias is waiving all lookup fees. The company plans primarily to work through industry organizations whose members need to use a Discovery Service for tracking EPCs or other auto-ID data on goods being transported among manufacturers, suppliers, logistics companies, retailers and other supply chain partners.

Afilias has already begun working with SITA—a cooperative venture owned by companies that provides telecommunications and other services to that industry—to offer the Discovery Service as part of a project called the Auto-ID Community Service Pilot. The goal of the pilot is to modernize SITA's data-sharing infrastructure to capitalize on RFID and other auto-ID technologies its member airlines and airports are using to track parts repair and cargo. "Our focus goal is to provide a shared data-processing infrastructure supporting key industry-specific processes," explains Marie Zitkova, SITA's head of auto-ID services, "such as management of parts life cycle, management of baggage and other industry assets, such as unit loading devices [containers used to load baggage or cargo onto aircraft], trolleys or ground handling equipment."

SITA conceived the Auto-ID Community Service Pilot in 2005, fleshed it out in 2006 and began offering it to SITA member companies early this year. Zitkova says the pilot is based on two types of services: managed applications and core community. With managed application services, SITA members participating in the pilot will use the SixD event-driven process-automation platform, provided by Plano, Texas, firm VI Agents, to collect data from RFID tags read in such shared environments as airports or from an alliance of airlines. The members can then process the reads based on business rules and relevant information delivered to the various users' business applications.

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