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EPCIS Implementers Need to Clean Up Their Data

One hundred percent of first-time exchanges of EPCIS events between companies contained errors. If not corrected, such mistakes could jeopardize the promise of tracking and tracing.
By Ted Osinski
Jul 12, 2009> Osinski

July 13, 2009—A number of companies have begun using the EPC Information Service Validation Portal (EPCIS VP), a self-testing service available to RFID end users via the Internet. As usage grows, however, the EPCIS Validation Portal has detected a number of errors in the users' EPCIS implementations. The quality of data collected by various RFID systems and stored in EPCIS databases is a concern. These mistakes, if not corrected, will affect the exchange of data between trading partners, and could jeopardize the promise of tracking and tracing. Fortunately, we are still in the early phases of RFID adoption, so such errors can be fixed at lower costs.

EPCglobal's EPCIS standard 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. EPCIS VP analyzes a user's EPCIS information and verifies an implementation's adherence to the EPCIS specification, EPC tag data standards and EPCIS common business vocabulary (see How to Realize the Full Potential of EPCIS). In addition, the portal produces analytical reports, including an error summary and events analysis (for example, the number of read portals and their locations, business steps or business transactions used, the number of EPC keys read and the types of EPC keys employed). A company need not be an EPCglobal member to utilize the service, though members receive a 50 percent discount.

The idea behind EPCIS VP is that each company self-validate its own EPCIS data to ensure internal RFID applications create correct information for integration with a company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and for exchanges with trading partners. Every business in the supply chain, therefore, should make sure the EPCIS data created is valid and can be exchanged. This is especially important for retailers, who receive EPCIS data from many suppliers. Retailers should not be validating the data and resolving errors themselves—they should expect correct information from the onset. Likewise, the retailers should also send valid EPCIS data back to their suppliers.

Unfortunately, this is not presently the case. One hundred percent of first-time exchanges of EPCIS files between companies had errors. That does not mean each event recorded in the transmitted file was flawed. However, the same type of error was propagated across all events in the transmitted file.

The end result? The whole EPCIS event file is rejected by a receiving user, and a debugging process begins. As more and more companies validate their data, EPCIS VP provides invaluable information and statistics regarding issues discovered with current implementations. EPCglobal and MET Laboratories, which co-developed the service, will not reveal the identities of the companies that have signed up thus far. However, the errors and common problems experienced by those firms must be brought up, so that a broader community can learn about them and take preventive action.

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