Demonstrating the Value of EPCIS

By Mark Roberti

Confused about this new standard? See a live demonstration at EPC Connection 2007 that will clearly show how the EPC Information Service can improve the way companies do business.


Conducting live technology demonstrations in an exhibit hall is always a challenge. There are so many things that can go wrong. Ambient RF energy can knock out RFID readers. Networks can go down. Routers can go on the blink. And human error can destroy the best-laid plans. Still, showing how a new technology actually works is the best way to help attendees understand how it could benefit their companies.

That’s why EPCglobal and RFID Journal decided to tempt fate and launch an EPC Information Service (EPCIS) demonstration at EPC Connection 2007, the fourth annual conference and exhibition of EPCglobal North America. Co-produced by RFID Journal, the show will be held in Chicago on Oct. 2-4. The demo was my idea, and I’m keen on it for a couple of reasons.

First, I think EPCIS is hugely important to gaining benefits from RFID in the supply chain in a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, chemical, defense and retail/consumer packaged goods. EPCIS is a set of networking and data-sharing standards allowing companies to share information not just about serial numbers read from RFID tags, but also regarding the context around those reads. For example, was the tag read at the receiving bay of a warehouse, or as the case moved from the back of the store to the retail floor? Was it on a part coming off a plane, or being put onto it? The answers to such questions make all the difference in the world when it comes to turning raw data into actionable information.

Additionally, I think most people are confused or in the dark about what EPCIS is and why it has so much potential to deliver value. I could sit here and try to explain it all day and not succeed. You could also read the cover story I wrote, explaining how Kimberly-Clark is using EPC data to improve promotions execution (see Kimberly-Clark Gets an Early Win), and that would give you an inkling of the benefits EPCIS promises. But the best way to really convey the value is to show it live and in action.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve seen these kinds of demos before. They are boring as hell, usually rigged, and you wind up having to take the presenter’s word that the hard-to-read numbers on the screen really mean something.”

This demo will be a little different. Ken Traub, who was CTO of RFID and edge servers at BEA Systems and now consults for EPCglobal, will run the demonstrations. To show how EPCIS enables companies to share data securely, we’ll have readers in different booths and several EPCIS applications running. We’ll show how you can perform track and trace, capture data for electronic pedigrees and provide electronic proof of delivery. And we’ll have the audience actually involved, bringing tagged items to different booths to see how the applications record the data. I think this will go a long way toward demystifying the EPCIS standard.

I’m confident the EPCIS demo will run smoothly because Rush Tracking Systems, one of the leading RFID systems integrators, is helping set up and support the system, which will include half a dozen exhibitors.

Personally, I think the event is worth attending just to see the EPCIS demonstration, because these standards are so important. Smart businesses are going to leverage them to cut significant costs out of the supply chain, comply with regulations and increase sales. And smart software companies are going to use the EPCIS standards to develop new applications that solve real business problems and create successful startups. This is the beginning of RFID finally delivering on its promise of transforming the supply chain.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.