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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.
Major Causes of Errors
EPCIS errors are typically generated either by internal RFID applications, or by trading partners sending or receiving EPCIS data. There are two main causes: (1) Companies developed (or purchased) EPCIS applications based on a draft EPCIS specification, and the ratified EPCIS standard is significantly different (the XML schema has changed, for instance). (2) Companies are using non-certified RFID hardware and software, thereby resulting in RFID applications that generate invalid EPC keys or other types of EPCIS data.
The following types of errors are typical of those experienced by early users of the EPCIS VP service. In these examples, all users were fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.
• EPCIS events fail XML validation: This type of error is typical for applications that implemented early EPCIS specifications. The document header is coded incorrectly; values are invalid for date or time (the time zone specifier is missing). Nearly all implementations got this wrong!
• EPC: Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) are in violation of the tag data standard for read point, bizLocation or bizTransaction; EPCs are invalid.
• Core Business Vocabulary (CBV): Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are invalid for bizStep, disposition, read points or bizLocation; values are invalid for locations or bizTransaction; values are missing. (Technically, the latter is not an error since most of CBV is optional, though it does call into question the data's usefulness. This will be rectified in the new CBV specification.)
• Extension: There is an invalid use of elements reserved for future use, or the structure is invalid.
All of the above problems have been discovered at the stage when companies have begun exchanging production EPCIS events with each other. The costs of fixing the problems at this point in time are exponentially higher then addressing them before going to production. It also leads to pointing fingers. If problems go unnoticed or stay unresolved for too long, they will undermine the premise that EPCIS can be a solution for product recalls, electronic pedigrees or track-and-trace applications. It is thus imperative that companies throughout the supply chain realize it's in their best interest to validate their EPCIS data. Wal-mart and Sam's Club have even stated they will mandate that suppliers validate their data prior to sending it to them.
Ted Osinski is the director of RFID programs at MET Laboratories, which provides testing certification services for a range of standards, including RFID.
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