The Value of Trust

By Mike Meranda

EPCglobal certification programs will ensure that hardware and software products meet approved standards.

The year was 1893, and an electrical inspector named William Henry Merrill had been hired by an insurance company to keep the Palace of Electricity—a grand exhibit of alternating current planned for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago—safe from fire hazards. When he stepped inside the exhibit, Merrill saw a dangerous tangle of electrical hookups.

On the spot, Merrill decided that the nascent industry needed safety standards. To prevent fires, he wanted to ensure that all the plugs and wires manufactured by various companies worked in harmony with each other—and that electrical products were built to common standards.

A year later, Merrill founded an organization that we now know as the Underwriters Laboratories. It tests the products of some 71,000 manufacturers each year and put its mark of approval on more than 19 billion items in 2004. Customers—manufacturers, retailers and consumers—have so much confidence in this not-for-profit organization that most wouldn’t purchase a product that doesn’t carry the UL mark.

EPCglobal is bringing standards—and the confidence that comes from purchasing products that have been tested and approved—to the RFID industry. In September, we announced the formation of the EPCglobal Hardware Certification program to ensure that UHF Generation 2 products—silicon chips, readers, reader modules and printer-encoders with embedded reader modules—meet current standards and work consistently well. Products will be tested by MET Laboratories, a Baltimore-based, independent testing company with a long history of putting products through their paces without bias or favor.

As of this writing, 10 products from seven solution providers—Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Devices (AWID), Impinj, Intermec Technologies, MaxID Group, Symbol Technologies and ThingMagic—have passed the stringent tests required to earn certification. These products will carry the EPCglobal Certification Mark, which includes a unique 18-digit Global Service Relation Number that companies can use to gain information about the specific tests.

More solution providers have applied for certification. An updated list of products that pass certification will be available to EPCglobal subscribers on our Web site. Companies that are considering purchasing equipment that doesn’t have the EPCglobal Certification Mark should ask the vendors why their products haven’t been certified. It might simply be that the equipment is in the process of being tested.

EPCglobal is planning to introduce interoperability testing soon, to ensure Gen 2 products work well together, regardless of manufacturer. A software certification program is also under way. EPCglobal is developing software standards for the EPCglobal Network, and as these standards are ratified, we’ll test whether software products adhere to the standards (see Leveraging the Internet of Things).

Just as Merrill brought trust to the electrical industry, EPCglobal plans to ensure that RFID technology works correctly and works well together. It’s the best way to foster the growth of a new industry.

Mike Meranda is president of EPCglobal US.