Can You Say SKU in RFID?

Ask folks in the banking industry to explain a debit, and you’ll likely
get a few answers, all of them at odds. Now ask folks in the accounting
industry to explain the term; even more varying terms pop up.

In the data-tagging world of RFID, amid the billions of bits data sensors
are pumping out, the issue is the same. How do you describe the data you’re
getting from those sensors so that trading partners know how to extract the
useful stuff?

Now that Unilever North America has just wrapped a pilot program involving RFID
data standards, the manufacturer could help drive wider industry adoption by
defining the RFID industry’s version of Web standards. The global
manufacturer of consumer goods such as Dove soap, Bird’s Eye and Hellman’s
brands, just wrapped a pilot test that involved the Electronic Product Code
Information Service (EPCIS) for exchange and query of RFID data.

Chris Clauss, a worldwide EPCIS solutions executive with IBM, said IBM
teamed with T3CI, which makes RFID analytics, in order to demonstrate how
manufacturers could securely share radio data. They just wrapped
interoperability testing of a new RFID industry software standard.

IBM and T3CI are both members of the EPCglobal, a not-for-profit standards
organization working to drive adoption of EPC technology.

Within EPCglobal,
so called EPCIS (EPC Information Service) working groups are hashing out
ways of understanding the data these sensors collect from items. The working
groups are also building standards on how to query the data and deliver it
to trading partners.

The bottom line is to use RFID data in order to sniff out ahead of time
when store shelves need to be filled again.

Clauss said the standard is designed to enable manufacturers using RFID
to overcome information overload and receive the specific supply chain
information they need to deliver product information in innovative ways.

He said the idea is to use the EPCIS standard so that organizations can
sort through and use the selected RFID data they need, reduce their data
burden, and simplify data streaming complexity, enabling applications to
subscribe only to events of interest.

The test is a milestone because it “marks the first step toward
delivering interoperability based on the Electronic Product Code Information
Service (EPCIS) for exchange and query of RFID data,” he said.

IBM explained that the Working Group’s goal is to create common interfaces
among RFID software, allowing organizations to exchange and leverage RFID
data independent of the applications in which data is created or stored.

The idea is to help trading partners up and down the supply chain scoop
up big volumes of data, but make sense of which bits to share among trading

Now that the testing is complete, look for Unilever North America to put
its market heft behind the use of the EPCIS standard for querying RFID data.

James Jackson, vice president of IT for Unilever, said the company will now
conduct a trial using the IBM RFID event repository to collect and access
information from within the company’s manufacturing environment and from
trading partners. More than anything, the standard helps replace manually
intensive data exchange tasks with automated processes, he added.

IBM’s Clauss said the thing that’s getting customers excited is how they
can track their products after they leave their hands — without having to
slog through a ton of “lumpy” data.

“It’s a chance to see the supply chain after you give up ownership of
your product. And I think it’s exciting for companies like Unilver to get to
do that.”

EPCglobal’s EPC Information Services standard is expected to be ratified
by the end of this year by the working group.

Corrects Chris Clauss’ title.

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