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EPCglobal Launches Major RFID Pilot in Asia

EPCglobal today announced the launch of a pilot to assess RFID usage on containers and cartons being shipped by sea between Japan and Hong Kong. It is the first of a two-phase initiative that will drive progress on EPCIS, continued standardization, and the use of RFID for automated customs clearance.
Oct 30, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

October 30, 2006—EPCglobal today announced the launch of a pilot to assess RFID usage on containers and cartons being shipped by sea between Japan and Hong Kong. It is the first of a two-phase initiative that will drive progress on EPCIS, continued standardization, and the use of RFID for automated customs clearance.

"The goal of this pilot is to show the interoperability of EPCglobal-certified RFID technology and EPCIS from country to country, and between trading partners and service providers," Gay Whitney, EPCglobal's director for standards, told RFID Update. The RFID data generated from the sea-bound containers will not only be shared across national boundaries, but industries as well, with representatives from transportation, logistics, and apparel taking part.

EPCIS, or "electronic product code information services", is an EPCglobal technical specification that will allow trading partners to transfer and share EPC data across the supply chain in a standardized process and format. EPCIS is currently a specification; only once it has passed through EPCglobal's standards development process and been ratified will it become an official standard. Still, many companies are working with the EPCIS specification as it stands, integrating it into their products and testing for interoperability. EPCglobal itself conducted interoperability testing earlier this month with a smattering of vendors (see the announcement).

The pilot in Asia will represent one the largest EPCIS tests to date, according to Whitney. "As far as a real live application of EPCIS, this is largest one I'm aware of," she said. One of its key characteristics will be the EPCIS communication between multiple trading partners, rather than just two.

In addition to EPCIS, semi-passive RFID technology will be evaluated, as will the use of RFID data for automation of import/export declaration.

Those aspects will receive more focus in the second phase of the pilot, which is set to be completed next September. That phase will assess tagged cargo shipped between Shanghai and Los Angeles. There will be an effort to glean learnings on the use of active RFID and sensor technology, learnings which would ultimately flow into the EPCglobal active tagging standard expected for ratification in 2008. Automated customs clearance will be studied, a topic which is quite complex given the variety of processes and methods used from one country to another. And lastly, key functionality of EPCIS known as "blind lookups" will be tested. Lookups allow a trading partner to obtain EPC information without knowing where on the EPCglobal Network the desired information resides.

A number of organizations from government and industry will participate in the pilot, including EPCglobal's Transportation and Logistics (TLS) Industry Action Group; GS1 Hong Kong; the Japanese Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry; and shipping companies DHL, Maersk, NYK, Schenker, and Schneider National. There are also a number of unannounced participants, including RFID hardware and software vendors.

Read the announcement from EPCglobal
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