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Why Buy EPCglobal-Certified Products?

Many end-user companies do not know about EPCglobal certification, or why they should purchase certified RFID hardware and software.
By Ted Osinski
Apr 18, 2009> Osinski

Apr. 20, 2009—After EPCglobal developed, prototyped and ratified the EPC Gen 2 specification several years ago, it established conformance and interoperability requirements. Those requirements have now become the backbone of EPCglobal's hardware certification program. The standards organization applies the same model to software specifications. Each piece of software is prototyped before the ratification or development of conformance requirements. A test system is extensively evaluated by EPCglobal, MET Laboratories and participating vendors as part of the beta test program.

Why Certification Matters
Certification is important because it maximizes the interoperability of RFID systems. EPCglobal certification is offered for nearly all EPCglobal standards. The data, interfaces, communication protocols and handshaking procedures are tested to ensure the devices conform to specifications and interoperate accurately. To obtain EPCglobal certification, a hardware device or software application must pass all tests. If a product does not pass, yet is still deployed, it will not be interoperable with certified products, resulting in additional deployment and operating costs.

Certification protects the integrity of an EPC RFID system, and uses real EPC keys as part of the tests. An improper implementation of an EPC key on tags or interrogators, or in the software, will be flagged. Further EPC key validation is provided as part of EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) Validation Portal (see How to Realize the Full Potential of EPCIS).

Certification also offers legal protection to vendors and buyers. EPCglobal's intellectual property (IP) policy ensures that all companies subscribing to the organization have open, neutral access to the technology and standards of the EPCglobal Network. The agreement guarantees that the technology remains non-proprietary for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

How to Verify that a Device Has Been Certified
A certified piece of hardware or software receives an EPCglobal Certification Mark (see Fig. 1) and a unique number: a GS1 GSRN key. Therefore, this certification is only valid for the particular product (model, version) tested. A list of certified devices is available on EPCglobal's Web site.

Certification Benefits
Certified hardware and software is rigorously tested at MET Laboratories, or at another Approved Regional Test Center (ARTC). MET Labs and other ARTCs are accredited based on the ISO 17025 standard. Certification will offer users confidence that the certified product conforms to the specifications and works accurately with other certified devices.

All hardware devices submitted for certification—tag ICs (microchips), inlays, readers, reader modules and printers—are tested for conformance to and interoperability with EPC Gen 2 standards. The test system is highly sophisticated, calibrated and automated. This eliminates human error and guarantees the repeatability of results. For software certification, all tests are conducted over the Internet and are automated. Test data and security certificates are provided to a vendor right before the test to ensure "fair play."

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