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EPCglobal Certifies EPCIS Software, Foresees Stronger RFID Adoption

At its annual member conference, EPCglobal says its work in setting and testing industry standards is beginning to pay off, and that its focus has shifted to helping companies deploy RFID.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor and Beth Bacheldor
Oct 04, 2007Deploying RFID technology using the Electronic Product Code (EPC) infrastructure of hardware and software is considerably less expensive and time-consuming today than it was just 18 months ago. That, in part, is due to the work of EPCglobal's hardware and software action groups, which have developed and ratified the EPC Gen 2 standard for passive UHF tags and readers. Now, the organization has announced its certification of several RFID middleware products intended to help users of EPC technology share data with their trading partners by using the EPC Information Services (EPCIS) software standard.

EPCglobal was created by GS1 to commercialize RFID technology in the supply chain. On Wednesday, at EPC Connection 2007 (its fourth annual member conference, which took place this week in Chicago), EPCglobal announced that six companies—IBM, LG CNS, MetaRights, NEC, NTT Comware and Samsung—have earned the EPCglobal conformance mark for EPCIS RFID middleware. These companies' products, the organization explained, have passed tests of their ability to successfully collect, store or share data read from RFID EPC tags, using the XML data structure as defined by the EPCIS standard. EPCglobal ratified the standard in April (see EPCglobal Ratifies EPCIS Standard). The EPCIS specification indicates that users can decide how much product or business data to share with trading partners, and that such data can be stored on a remote server and/or locally.

The promise the standard holds is that EPCIS middleware will allow various parties in the supply chain to share data regarding RFID-tagged products, such as their make-up, the path they've traveled before reaching their destination and their expiration date. To help attendees understand how EPCIS works, several demonstration games were presented on the conference exhibition floor. Contestants in these games were required to use an EPCIS interface to determine the location of tagged products and their chain of custody, and to attain proof the tagged products had been received at their intended destinations on time (known as electronic proof of delivery).

Consumer goods manufacturer Unilever completed a pilot trial last year, designed to determine the effectiveness and value of the EPCIS standard (see Unilever Expects Big Gains From Its RFID Data-Sharing Trial). Moreover, a number of other retailers and suppliers have also experimented with the standard, which is widely considered a crucial step in leveraging RFID's value in the supply chain.

At EPC Connection 2007, Reva Systems, which sells an RFID reader network appliance for managing RFID interrogators and collecting tag data, offered attendees a demonstration of the device’s ability to collect and prepare RFID data for transmission to remote servers for EPCIS event reporting. This data capture and transmission is one of three main functions outlined by the EPCIS standard. The other two are storing data in a repository and sending queries to that repository in order to extract desired information from the stored data—functions performed by enterprise EPCIS data repositories operating as an external hosted service or as an enterprise managed resource.

Omnitrol Networks, another RFID reader networking appliance provider, announced this week that its Wide-Area Work-In-Process (WIP) Visibility platform now leverages EPCIS middleware, and that its solution has been integrated with IBM's WebSphere RFID Information Center. The platform consists of hardware and software enabling companies to track the stages of each work order by documenting tag reads on containers used in a manufacturing or assembly process.

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