Radio Frequency IDentification - RFID

EPCglobal is a joint venture between the Uniform Code Council (UCC) and the European Article Numbering (EAN) Association. This is the main organizational body involved in the standardization of the electronic product code (EPC), which is widely used and accepted for RFID systems. As an open standard, EPC serves two important purposes. Suppliers of the technology can develop products-tags and readers-to one standard, which makes it more affordable to deploy. Customers have more vendor choices and are assured that the products conforming to the EPC standard are truly interoperable.

In December 2004 EPCGlobal officially approved the royalty-free Gen 2 standard for radio frequency identification. The point of the Gen 2 specification is to improve the baseline performance of RFID, e.g. by improving the accuracy, speed, and distance of tag read rates.

Companies require detailed information about their products and supply chain, and the ability to share that information with their trading partners in order to facilitate commercial transactions and the movement of goods and services. In order to serve various needs for information, two distinct information networks have been developed: the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) and the EPCglobal Network. The GDSN ensures the quality of Static Information about commercial entities and product/service groups among partners for collaborative trading. The EPCglobal Network provides access to Dynamic Information about the movement of individual items as they pass through the supply chain. The combination of the EPCglobal Network and the GDSN can provide a comprehensive, integrated approach to electronic collaboration.

Static Information about commercial entities might typically include location information about a warehouse, store, distribution center, sales office, etc. Static Information about product/service groups might include trading unit, selling unit, item dimensions, etc. Dynamic Information conveys data specific to an individual instance of an object including its history.

The EPCglobal Network and the GDSN both utilize a mechanism to associate a global identification number with the related information, as well as a mechanism to manage access to information within the network.

The EPCglobal Network is a method for collecting and sharing information about the physical movement of individual items. The goal of the EPCglobal Network is to provide access to Dynamic Information for collaborative logistics using Internet technology to create a network for sharing that information among authorized trading partners in the global supply chain. In contrast, the GDSN is a method for sharing Static Information with trading partners in order to facilitate commercial transactions. The goal of the GDSN is to ensure the quality of Static Information among partners for collaborative trading.

Founded in 1999, the Auto-ID Center is a unique partnership between almost 100 global companies and five of the world's leading research universities; MIT in the US, the University of Cambridge in the UK, the University of Adelaide in Australia, Keio University in Japan, and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Together they are creating the standards and assembling the building blocks needed to create an "Internet of things." The Auto-ID Center is designing, building, testing and deploying a global infrastructure - a layer on top of the Internet - that will make it possible for computers to identify any object anywhere in the world instantly.

The Auto-ID Center is designing the critical elements of the new network. These elements include: Electronic Product Code or EPC, specification for cheap tags and cheap agile readers, Object Naming Service or ONS, Product Mark-up Language or PML and Savant software technology.

The Center is also developing the standards needed to ensure that products can be identified regardless of which manufacturer tags them, and building some of the software that will help manage the flow of data.

In May 2003, the UCC announced that it had reached an agreement with MIT to license EPC technology, which was developed by the Auto-ID Center, thus giving the UCC exclusive rights to the technology. In accordance with this agreement, both bodies intend to form a joint venture called Auto-ID Inc. Auto-ID Center sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Gillette, Target, Home Depot and Wal-Mart, have poured about $20 million into the project since its start. Auto-ID Center as a federation of research universities linked by the common vision of an "Internet of things," will continue to research and develop new technologies and applications for revolutionizing global commerce as Auto-ID Labs.

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