The Ratification of EPCIS

By Mike Meranda

The EPCglobal Network is now open for business, allowing trading partners to share information and gain business value.

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The newly ratified standard for the Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) is one of the most important developments of 2007. That's because it is the framework that will allow trading partners to access and share EPC-related information on the EPCglobal Network.

Many people from the EPCglobal community participated in the development and testing of EPCIS. This past summer, EPCglobal completed testing of prototypical software based on the EPCIS specifications, which was an important step toward ratifying EPCIS as an EPC data standard. The tests showed that different EPCIS-based software products could interoperate, so that if company A requested RFID data from company B, the latter's EPCIS layer of software would easily recognize the request and reply to it in a standardized data format.

But many companies did not wait for the EPCIS standard to be ratified—more than 30 used the draft EPCIS standard to exchange data and collaborate with trading partners. One of the most ambitious projects was undertaken in Asia, supported by Japan's Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry and EPCglobal Hong Kong, set up in 2004 under the auspices of GS1 Hong Kong.

The pilot used both passive and active UHF tags to track cartons and containers between Hong Kong and Japan. Information about the movement of products through the supply chain was stored in a secure database on the EPCglobal Network. A second phase of the pilot, scheduled for completion in September 2007, will track goods between Shanghai and Los Angeles.

What really excites me about the ratification is that the EPCIS standard is a catalyst that will help companies move from RFID pilots to commercial implementations. Companies in the aerospace, chemical and pharmaceutical industries will now be able to use the EPCglobal Network to gain visibility into their supply chains. I also expect the advent of EPCIS to accelerate the adoption of EPC technology as its value becomes clearer.

The creation of the EPCIS standard is analogous to the creation of the first HTML standards for sharing data over the Internet. Those standards, as we know, enabled companies to place information online and share it with customers and partners alike, anywhere in the world. They also sparked tremendous innovation from entrepreneurs such as founder Jeff Bezos and Yahoo! founders David Filo and Jerry Yang, who came up with innovative ways to create value for customers using those standards.

I believe the evolution of EPC technology is entering a phase in which creativity will be king. Given the new standards for sharing data over the EPCglobal Network, innovative entrepreneurs will be able to design a new generation of software applications that create value for companies in just about every industry.

That's because with new standards come new ways to leverage RFID technology—and the EPCglobal Network—to help companies solve their business challenges and maintain their competitive edge.

Mike Meranda is president of EPCglobal US. Illustration by Brad Yeo.