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Chipmakers Seek Industry-wide Serialization Schema

Working together would prevent the duplication of chip-based serial numbers in RFID tags made by different vendors—but challenges remain.
By Mark Roberti
Mar 14, 2012Manufacturers of the microchips used in passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio frequency identification transponders based on GS1's Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard are having informal discussions in an effort to reach an agreement regarding an industry-wide approach to encoding unique serial numbers in EPC tags using the Tag ID (TID), a serial number hard-coded into RFID chips during manufacture. The goal would be to ensure that end users could use chip-based serialization—numbers generated from the TIDs—without worrying that tags provided by different vendors would contain duplicate serial numbers.

GS1 US set up a U.S.-based working group in April 2011 to look into the issue of serialization, working with Gena Morgan, GS1 US' program manager, and Ken Traub, a consultant for GS1 US, as the group's facilitators. The team comprised roughly 30 stakeholders, including label converters, brand owners, retailers and chipmakers.

Ken Traub, consultant for GS1 US
"Everyone agreed that it would be nice to have a global standard," Traub says, "but in the end, everybody agreed that suppliers need the flexibility to develop their own serialization plans, whether managing serial numbers themselves, using the Tag ID, or using a combination of methods."

At present, there are a small number of suppliers tagging a large volume of apparel items for retailers, so the chances of an EPC being duplicated are not large, and the problems caused by duplication would be minimal. But that could change, according to Patrick Ervin, Alien Technology's VP of worldwide marketing and sales.

"There are several approaches to serialization," Ervin explains. "Having a pre-encoded serial numbers is one way. Using software to create serial numbers, or having a service bureau do it, are other ways. What we want to do is try to make it less complex for the end users to use whatever method they want, or mix several methods without the risk of duplication."


Noel Castiglia 2012-03-15 05:08:58 PM
Sr. Scientist If a service bureau does the pre-encoding can industry pick the codes or reserve code blocks for a specific customer. Or can a client of a manufacturer pick random encoded S/n's and reserve them? Is the plan for the service bureau to keep a secure library? How could an authorized user/client access the S/n information.

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