A global product coding standard being developed for use with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is being tested on the sea-shipment of cartons between Hong Kong and Japan.
The royalty-free standards being developed by EPCglobal are the foundations in the continuingconstruction of a global supply chain information network that combines RFID technology, existingcommunications network infrastructure and a system called Electronic Product Code (EPC), a numberfor uniquely identifying an item.
The development of common communication standards on product and shipment data will allowcompanies and regulators to share such information, thus speeding up the supply chain and cuttingdown on errors.
The test in Asia is the first of a two-phase pilot project that will drive progress on continuedstandardisation and the use of RFID for automated customs clearance.
A unified data system would allow changes in information about product sizes, weight, name,price, classification, transport requirements and volumes to be immediately transmitted along thesupply chain. For example it would allow shippers to immediately know if the amount of productstacked on a pallet had changed, or give a retailer time to adjust display space.
The system is being built to help companies save money throughout the supply chain by using theorganisation's Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hormel Foods,Kraft, Unilever, Wegmans Food Markets and Sara Lee are among the food companies that have signed upto implement the system.
EPCglobal said the launch of a pilot project will assess the use of passive and active UHF EPC/RFID tags forthe sea-shipment of cartons between Hong Kong and Japan. The Hong Kong EPC network will be used to communicate with otherrelated networks in Japan. The first phase is scheduled for completion in February 2007.
A second phase, scheduled for completion in September 2007, will test tags on containers shipped between Shanghai, China, and Los Angeles.
"This truly multi-industry, multi-stakeholder initiative is a significant step towardstandardising RFID data," said Chris Adcock, president of EPCglobal Inc.
The first phase of the testing project will aim to demonstrate the interoperability of the code among multiple trading partners and service providers in a global supply chain.In addition to testing and developing requirements for active RFID and its integration with associated technology,EPCglobal also hopes to identify standards for transportation and logistics providers.
The second phase will be used to test the EPC Information Services standard. Information will be exchanged between potential end users, such as customs administrations for automatic customs clearance.
EPC Information Services is a draft standard, which will provide a common set of data elements, a common language for communication, and a set of defined messages for trading partners to use for storing, accessing, and communicating data on objects moving in the supply chain.
Pilot participants include several hardware and software companies, government bodies, and global supply chain providers includingDHL, Maersk, NYK, Schenker and Schneider National.
Last month EPCglobal Inc announced the successful completion of interoperability testing of itsElectronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS), a technical specification that will enable trading partners using the Electronic Product Code to capture and share event information in key supply chain processes.
The EPCIS specification will allow trading partners to capture and share EPC information with seamless,standardised interoperability by providing both interfaces for the EPC data exchange and the specifications of the data itself.
The new specification represents another step in the worldwide rollout of EPC technology, which usesRFID to provide a new level of product movement visibility in the global supply chain. EPCglobalexpects to be put the EPCIS specification forward for ratification by its board of governors later this year.
The interoperability testing of the EPCIS v1.0 specification was conducted at the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Twelve organizations participated in the tests,including Auto-ID Labs, BEA Systems, Bent Systems, IBM, Globe Ranger, IIJ, NEC, Oracle, Polaris Systems, Samsung, and T3Ci.
"The real value of EPC technology comes when data is shared collaboratively across the supplychain" the organisation stated. "EPCIS will serve as the information bridge of the EPCglobal Network connecting trading partners, facilitating their exchange of EPC data and enabling companies toutilise this data in collaborative business processes."
The interoperability test marks a significant milestone in the development of EPCIS-a culmination ofeffort by about 150 companies and organisations participating in the working group.