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EPCglobal Transportation and Logistics Pilot Takes Visibility to a Global Level

The program's second phase, the organization says, illustrates how EPC-based technology can be utilized to track goods as they are transported by air, sea, road and rail, from China to the United States.
By Claire Swedberg
The cargo-unloading event for the CAT tag was captured with handheld readers—fixed interrogators for the XCAT tags—and the passive pallet tags were de-associated with the passive and active trailer tags. The cargo was then unloaded from the trailer, and the consignee accepted delivery of the cargo, after which point the data from all of the reads was transmitted to the EPCIS application via the middleware.

Shirley Arsenault, TLS facilitator at EPCglobal, cites several challenges in this pilot program. Because researchers tested several types of tags on the containers and trailers, six reads were received for each container and three readers were installed at each read point to capture the various passive and active reads. The pilot included four middleware providers—Oracle, NEC, Globe Ranger and Adtio—to upload the information to the EPCIS application. Those four companies had to capture data using XCAT and CAT tags.

"The suppliers of the EPCIS and accessing applications also had to make modifications to their software," Arsenault says, "to accommodate these changes and make decisions on how to display information." For instance, although there was only one container, there was read data for six container tags that needed to be displayed. "The XCAT tags performed very well," she claims, with 100 percent read rates. "There were greater challenges with the CAT tags, requiring fine-tuning of reader location and parameters."

The project also demonstrated that vehicle identification needed to be more precisely defined. In the ocean section of the pilot, for example, the ship was identified using a Global Location Number (GLN), traditionally utilized for fixed locations. In the pilot's air section, the truck trailer was identified with a Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI).

"Further discussion, consensus and guidelines need to be developed for end users," Arsenault states. Overall, the pilot found that with the improved shipment visibility, basic logistics processes such as yard operations, receiving/shipping processes and alert notifications for exception management can benefit from the application of EPC and RFID technologies.

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