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EPCglobal Hong Kong Wraps Two-Year, Multi-Company RFID Project

The undertaking tested several EPCglobal standards and involved four pilots tracking goods with RFID as they moved across countries and oceans.
By Claire Swedberg
May 21, 2007EPCglobal Hong Kong has completed a two-year, multi-pilot research project that tested the use of the Electronic Product Code (EPC) and RFID infrastructures among manufacturers, logistics providers and retailers in Hong Kong, China and the United States. The project's real-world experiences, says Anna Lin, chief executive of GS1 Hong Kong and EPCglobal Hong Kong, will help pave the way for future RFID and EPC initiatives worldwide.

"We know that the infrastructure is in place; we've done the technical testing," Lin says. "Now we have the opportunity to drill further and make our findings applicable to other companies."

The project's goal was to build an EPCglobal standard infrastructure leveraging EPCglobal standards and services. Among them were the UHF EPC Gen 2 air-interface protocol; the Electronic Product Code Information Service (EPCIS), an EPC standard designed to help companies securely exchange RFID and related product data with business partners in real time; and the EPC Network, a suite of network services for sharing RFID data. The project also included pilots with four companies: Maersk Logistics, Esquel Group, VTech Communications and Group Sense (International) Ltd. (GSL).

The four firms participating in the pilots examined RFID tags, interrogators and systems-integration services to learn just how RFID could be put to use in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) area of Asia, where vast amounts of manufacturing and exporting of goods occur. The pilots were funded by the Hong Kong SAR Government's Innovation and Technology Commission.

The Hong Kong pilots tracked goods as they traversed supply chains from Hong Kong and mainland China to overseas destinations. They included the testing of RFID, bar codes, EPCIS and AS2, a standard defining how applications communicate EDI, XML or other business-to-business data over the Internet. EPCglobal Hong Kong also tested other RFID frequencies early on in the project. "Our pilot is very interesting because it combines frequencies, technologies, integrates data with the logistic supply chain and with internal systems," says Lin, adding that all the participating companies plan to continue using RFID, either in ongoing pilots or in full-scale deployments.

In one pilot, shirt manufacturer Esquel Group tracked the movement of its materials as they crossed the China-Hong Kong border multiple times throughout production, in what is known as an outward processing arrangement (OPA). OPAs are necessary because the company often ships materials numerous times between its processing plants in Kwun Tong (an industrial area in Hong Kong) and Gao Ming, on mainland China. The pilot was designed to illustrate how RFID could help the company determine where materials were at any given time during the production process. "They needed work-in-progress visibility," says Ronald Heung, project director of GS1 Hong Kong, "as the cotton shirts traveled back and forth across the border."

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