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EPCglobal Provides Guidance for Container Tags

The organization's new guidelines specify the performance and usage of EPC Gen 2 RFID tags designed for tracking cargo, and are intended for tag vendors as well as logistics companies.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 14, 2010Members of GS1 EPCglobal's Transportation & Logistics Services Industry Action Group (TLS IAG) issued a set of guidelines this week specifying the physical and performance capabilities and characteristics for EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags intended for use on containers that transport items via sea, by rail, or in trucks or trailers. The publication, known as the Technical Implementation Guide for Conveyance Asset Tag (CAT) Environmental Testing, also directs how tags are to be attached and encoded. The guidelines are intended to spell out the attributes, characteristics and performance capabilities that CAT tags must meet in order for each type of container and transportation mode (trucks and trailers, rail or air). EPCglobal hopes that tag manufacturers and transport industry companies will employ these specifications when testing and evaluating new tags, and thereby increase the reliability of tags used for tracking freight.

Members of the logistics industry can follow the guidelines when evaluating and testing tags, and when encoding the tags and attaching them to containers. In addition, tag vendors can utilize the guidelines as criteria when testing their own products for use on containers.

Logistics companies face challenges in managing customers' products using a variety of identification methods and technologies, from handwritten serial numbers to bar codes and passive and active RFID tags, explains Tony Hollis, the director of product development and innovation at logistics firm Exel, a division of DHL Supply Chain Americas, and a cochair of the group. Exel/DHL ships product for other companies, and tracks those goods with RFID tags on its containers. "We found there were a lot of different standards that went into labeling things," Hollis says, and the group aimed to develop a standard that businesses like Exel/DHL, as well as their customers, can follow in order to "tag these assets in a reliable manner."

Companies currently use a variety of methods for tracking containers and their cargo—either manually, using pen and paper, or via an auto-ID technology, such as bar coding or radio frequency identification. "Certainly, there are a host of tracking opportunities out there," Hollis states. "We wanted to see what we could do to facilitate a standard that would help us all get away from using clipboards [for handwritten data about containers]," by ensuring there was a standard automated RFID system that all members of the supply chain could utilize.

The other members of the GS1 group who contributed to the guidelines were representatives from iControl Inc., Damco, Boeing, SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego and FedEx. In addition, Hollis says, over the course of several years of standards meetings held around the globe, "there were many technology providers, transportation and service providers, manufacturers and retailer companies involved in these discussions."

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