Everybody’s In on RFID

Even for those companies, still a majority, not immediately involved in the rush to implement RFID, that rush may be the harbinger of innovative ways to do business. For example, radio-frequency-based product ID and shrink management systems provider Checkpoint Systems has announced the organization of a network of companies interested in providing end users with compliance support for the Electronic Product Code, which represents the new RFID wave of product code numbers. The EPC Compliance Network will use the Checkpoint EPC Compliance Center at Checkpoint’s headquarters in Thorofare, NJ, as a central operation for the Network, although Checkpoint also has RF Source tagging centers in Europe, Asia, and South America. The Compliance Center is a vendor-agnostic testing laboratory where network members and customers can evaluate and design EPC-compliant RFID solutions.

Created originally by the MIT AutoID Center, itself a consortium of corporations and university laboratories, the Electronic Product Code system is now managed by EPCglobal Inc., in turn a subsidiary of the Electronic Article Numbering International group and the Uniform Code Council. The goal of EPCglobal is to develop global standards for radio frequency identification, in much the same way that product bar code standards have been developed. The improvement of RFID over the UPC bar code system lies in the fact that global trade identification numbers specific to the 96-bit RFID tags provide information at the level of individual products, rather than just to groups of products, as with bar codes.

The implications of using RFID for increasing precision of product tracking throughout the supply chain are enormous. John Thorn, general manager of supply chain solutions for Checkpoint systems, points out that already, “industry mandates require a 100% read rate, regardless of product type or orientation,” putting significant pressure on potential users to test their systems carefully—hence the significance of Checkpoint’s Compliance Center.

Initial members of the Checkpoint EPC Compliance Network include Bekins Logistics, Control Solutions, NCS Technologies, and SI Systems. Both members/partners and customers will share access to resources in the form of engineers and systems design consultants, and Checkpoint will also provide technical training, sales, and cooperative marketing tools.

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