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The Evolution of EPC

This new species of technology is adapting to the needs of the RFID community.
By Mike Meranda
Tags: Standards
Dec 01, 2006—Charles Darwin contributed significantly and broadly to science, but he is best known for one simple idea: species development through a process called evolution. That process is at work in the RFID community, as the use of Electronic Product Code technology evolves. When EPCglobal was formed three years ago, the technology was primitive, the applications were tightly defined to logistics and supply chain, and implementation options were limited. Today, EPC technology is being used by companies of all shapes and sizes and in new and innovative ways—all very different from what we predicted.

We can trace our evolution to the early adopters who rolled up their sleeves and tested RFID in their businesses. EPC has made rapid advancements over the past few years because these companies shared their learnings and insights—their successes as well as setbacks.


Standards, of course, have helped evolve the technology. But it's the shared knowledge gleaned from EPC's real-world use that has given the user community more options for launching their own EPC programs. And the way that knowledge is disseminated is also evolving. The classic teacher-students model, where knowledge cascades down to the masses, has evolved into a collaborative effort where companies work together to find a solution. In many cases, companies are finding there is no one right answer, no one right way of doing EPC.

We've also found that there's no one right moment to launch an EPC project. Companies need to follow the example of the early adopters: They need to get off the sidelines, roll up their sleeves, test it in their businesses and share their experiences. But thanks to the evolutionary process, companies that are just looking into EPC have an advantage over the early adopters—shared knowledge that will enable them to make informed decisions and overcome technical challenges.

At our annual conference in October, we announced a number of new tools to make using EPC easier and implementing the technology faster. These tools include Implementation Advisor, which helps users create and manage their own customized implementation road maps, and an enhanced KnowledgeBase, the world's largest repository of EPC information and tools. The goal is to make the path to adoption shorter and easier.



We welcome new users into the EPC community because the full value of EPC comes when companies can use it to connect and collaborate with all their trading partners, both big and small. As the collective knowledge grows, it will enable the community of users to expand. As companies discover new ways to adopt this technology, it will provide more options for implementation, which is especially critical for companies that do not have the resources of their larger trading partners.

Diversity is a driving force in evolution, in that it strengthens a species over time. The success of our EPC effort cannot be dependent solely on a single company, country or industry, or on any one technology or standard. As more companies adopt EPC technology and share their experiences collaboratively, we'll find new ways to unlock its business value.

Mike Meranda is president of EPCglobal US. Illustration by Joyce Hesselberth.
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