New Standard Advances Value Of RFID - InformationWeek

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New Standard Advances Value Of RFID

EPCglobal's royalty-free Application Level Events standard defines the process to collect, manage, and route data that Electronic Product Code technology generates in the supply chain.

In a move toward improving the value of radio-frequency technology to businesses, the nonprofit standards organization EPCglobal Inc. this week approved a new development standard for software that's used within RFID-enabled supply chains.

EPCglobal's royalty-free Application Level Events standard defines the process to collect, manage, and route data that electronic-product-code technology generates in the supply chain. Software that follows the standard should be more interoperable with other systems and software, creating fewer data-collection headaches for businesses. It's the first standard to come out of the EPCglobal Software Action Group, which consists of more than 100 companies.

Ed Matthews, information systems director at Pacific Cycle LLC, welcomes the news. Software interoperability has been a challenge for the maker of mountain and free-style bicycles such as Schwinn and Mongoose since it began shipping products tagged with RFID labels to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in September 2004. "I hope this means we'll get resolution from the decision and the software will start working better together," Mathews says. "We have a heck of a time with the amount of middleware, trying to get one to talk with another."

The bike company has spent nearly $1 million on investments in RFID technology such as software, readers, tags, and services in the past two years, as it strives to perfect EPC data collection from RFID tags affixed to products bound for Wal-Mart's Fort Worth/Dallas area distribution centers.

Data travels a long route from tags to enterprise-resource-planning platforms. At Pacific Cycle, EPC data flows from tags to Symbol Technologies Inc.'s AR 400 readers through Peak Technologies' middleware to SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure, where SAP Exchange Infrastructure translates the XML code into an IDOC structure that lets the mySAP ERP platform read the information.

EPCglobal's announcement follows successful interoperability testing of prototype software from several technology providers, including Acsis, ConnecTerra, GlobeRanger, IBM, Progress Software, and Reva Systems. The tests ensure that software built to the standard will work with each other to meet the requirements of suppliers, manufacturers, and user companies operating across multiple industries. "The community is making swift strides in the commercialization of RFID and EPC technology," Chris Adcock, president of EPCglobal, a GS1 subsidiary, said in a statement.

Earlier this month at the EPCglobal U.S. Conference in Atlanta, the nonprofit company awarded seven vendors the first EPCglobal Certification Marks, certifying their hardware complies with EPCglobal technical standards. Testing for Certification Marks is conducted by MET Laboratories, a third-party testing facility. Vendors receiving certification include Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Devices, Impinj, Intermec Technologies, MaxID Group, Symbol Technologies, and ThingMagic.

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