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How to Realize the Full Potential of EPCIS

EPC Information Service applications are powerful tools for maximizing the value of an EPC RFID deployment, and the EPCIS Validation Portal service can help expedite the deployment and implementation of EPCIS.
By Ted Osinski
Feb 22, 2009> Osinski

Feb. 23, 2009—EPC Information Service (EPCIS), one of the most important standards developed by EPCglobal, defines an EPCIS event, which contains information regarding a product tagged with an EPC Gen 2 passive RFID chip, as well as rules for exchanging event data. For instance, a typical event may contain a list of Electronic Product Codes (EPCs) for each tagged box on a pallet leaving a manufacturer's shipping area en route to a retailer. Other data, such as the date and time the box readings were performed, the location of the read (dock door #6, for example), temperature or an associated purchase order can also be stored as part of the event. In essence, the event contains information about the "what, when, where and why" of the tagged product.

A manufacturer can send an event to a retailer as a truck leaves its premises. A retailer would then know the quantity of boxes to expect upon receiving the shipment. When a box reaches the retailer's sales floor, another event could be generated and sent back to the manufacturer, thus enabling the latter to know how long it took for a product to reach the sales floor, and how quickly it was sold.

An event is composed of four elements: structure, common business vocabulary (CBV), queries and communication protocol. Structure is an XML schema that defines rules for creating an event and custom extensions. Common business vocabulary (CBV) is terminology that defines business data pertaining to a physical object. An example of CBV is business_step "shipping" or business_transaction "po" (for purchase order). Queries are governed by a rules-based mechanism for formulating questions and delivering results (see Fig. 1 for an example of a query). The communication protocol—the method employed to exchange EPCIS events—may be any of several Internet-based protocols, such as HTTP, HTTPS or AS2.

Deployment of EPCIS offers many technical and business advantages, including:

Data sharing and supply chain visibility: EPCIS event data can originate from various sources (for example, tags, RFID reader middleware, ERP software, an WMS and trading partners). This information (accessed via queries) is instantly available within a company's facilities, or can be shared with its trading partners. This is valuable for tracking tagged items.

Monitoring day-to-day RFID applications: Events can expose problems that may have occurred within a company's own operations, or elsewhere. Invalid data—such as an incorrectly encoded EPC number on a tag, missing business steps or a non-standard XML extension—could limit the benefits of an RFID application.

Data mining: EPCIS repositories will store thousands of events. The event data can help companies calculate the effectiveness of RFID-enabled business processes, or assess an entire RFID implementation at the enterprise level.

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