Backed by the majors: Gen 2 Standard "how-to" guide aims to ease RFID implementation fears


A question-and-answer (Q&A) EPCglobal Gen 2 RFID standard has been published by the European arm of GS1 , the global not-for-profit standards body. Backed by major European manufacturers and retailers—including Carrefour, Henkel, Kraft Foods, METRO Group, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble—the guide has one avowed intent, says Stephane Pique, GS1 Europe’s director of electronic product codes and RFID.

“We’re trying to drive adoption,” he explains. “The idea is to create tools and documents that will get companies more confident about adopting and using RFID technology.”

Although GS1 EPCglobal standards areusers.”

Focused very much as a business-level publication—rather than a technical one—the guide addresses 21 common RFID-related concerns, namely:

• What are the main benefits companies anticipate they will capture by using RFID;

• What kind of information can be stored and exchanged; and

• What are the radio-frequency usage rules in Europe.

Interaction between bar-code-based product-coding identification rules and RFID also is addressed, as are issues as diverse as costs, tools for evaluating ROI, and data synchronization.

Publication of the guide is an acknowledgement, it seems, that although what GS1 describes as "major use cases" are under way at a number of European manufacturers and retailers, many RFID implementations today are typically either in closed-loop systems such as returnable packaging, or are for purely internal use within companies.

“There aren’t yet enough convincing RFID-based inter-organization based transactions,” concedes Pique.

It’s hoped that GS1's related work in developing trading standards will unblock the logjam.

“The Gen 2 RFID standard has been very successful, and two-thirds of the UHF-based systems on the market are based on it,” says Pique. “But by using other GS1 standards in parallel, companies can better leverage RFID outside the four walls of the enterprise, and across the supply chain.”

“We’re trying to drive adoption. The idea is to create tools and documents that will get companies more confident about adopting and using RFID technology.”— Stephane Pique, GS1 Europe’s director of electronic product codes and RFID

EPC Information Services (EPCIS), for instance, is an EPCglobal standard for sharing electronic product code-related information between trading partners, and providing capabilities for improved efficiency, security, and visibility in the global supply chain. Incorporating RFID use, EPCIS facilitates internal data capture as well as external sharing of information about movement and status of goods in the physical world, explains Pique.

“Companies can exchange information by‘talking the same language’,” he says. “It’s a way of exchanging information on the what, where, when, and why of events that occur in the supply chain.”

As the implementation guide makes clear, the EPCIS standard isn’t about replacing EDI. EPCIS does not address purchasing, forecasts, bidding, or billing—just the exchange of high-volume, detailed information about supply chain events and shipment status among cooperating partners.

Yet despite the guide’s European origins, a major fillip to GS1 adoption comes from Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart ’s Sam’s Club RFID mandate. (Sam’s Club is an operating brand of the giant retail chain.)

“It affects 800 suppliers—mostly in Asia—and GSI is working with Wal-Mart to help,” says Pique. “The idea is that RFID in the first year will be pallet-based, at box-level in the second year, and individual item-level in the third year—so it’s very promising indeed.”

Download here —note that registration isn’t required.

More information about GS1 Europe can be found here .

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