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GS1 Taiwan Pushes for EPCglobal E-seal Standard

A review of user requirements for the proposed standard for passive e-seals—containing EPC Gen 2 RFID tags—is expected to begin soon.
By Dave Friedlos
Oct 28, 2009Passive electronic seals (e-seals)—which consist of a passive RFID tag combined with a mechanical seal for securing cargo containers—have become increasingly popular for transportation and logistics, because they are disposable, low-cost and battery-free. But there is no existing standard for passive e-seals, though a globally recognized standard, namely, ISO 18185, does exist for e-seals manufactured with active RFID tags. GS1 Taiwan is now calling for GS1's RFID division, EPCglobal, to create a new standard for passive e-seals based on Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology.

Taiwan's Port of Kaohsiung—one of the largest ports in the world, with more than one million containers imported and exported annually—recently rolled out Yeon Technologies' YTE-100 e-seals, which contain passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags operating at 860 to 960 MHz. The YTE-100 e-seals also comply with the ISO 17712 standard, which defines specifications for mechanical freight container seals, but not for the electronic components found in e-seals (see Taiwan Customs Officials Adopt RFID-enabled Container Seals).

Yeon Technologies initially conducted field tests at a Taiwanese industrial park, in which containers were secured with YTE-100 e-seals and placed on trucks that traveled past RFID readers at speeds of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. The interrogators were able to read the unique ID number encoded to each e-seal's RFID tag 97 percent of the time.

At the Port of Kaohsiung, Impinj Speedway readers were installed at 20 lanes used by trucks that transport the containers. Customs officials were alerted if a container e-seal's tag ID number did not match an authorized shipment, or if the e-seal had been tampered with or broken. The system had an accuracy rate of more than 97 percent, and reduced the customs officers' workload by thousands of hours. Following the successful trial, the customs office purchased 40,000 e-seals and 40 interrogators. E-seals are now attached to containers before they are shipped to the terminals.

Consequently, GS1 Taiwan has proposed that EPCglobal develop a passive e-seal standard as part of its Transportation and Logistics Services (TLS) Industry Action Group pilot program. Since 2006, EPCglobal has been testing the use of RFID technology in shipments over the ocean, air and ground, through customs, ports and distribution centers, in order to determine the benefits of EPC technology in the transportation and logistics services industries.

The first phase of the project focused on footwear shipped by sea from Hong Kong to Tokyo. The second phase tested electronic goods and agricultural equipment transported from Shanghai to Los Angeles by air, land and sea. And the third phase tested the effectiveness of sharing data stored on an EPC Information Services (EPCIS) database, and of using active RFID seals on containers traveling through customs in Tokyo and Amsterdam (see EPCglobal Reveals Details of Tokyo-Amsterdam Shipment Project).

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