EPCglobal is leading the development of industry-driven standards for the Electronic Product Code™(EPC) to support the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in today's fast-moving, information rich, trading networks. The goal is to increased visibility and efficiency throughout the supply chain and higher quality information flow between companies and their key trading partners.
Electronic Product Code™ (EPC) is a numbering system, which works with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and global communications networks, to track and trace goods as they move through the global supply chain. When an item carries an RFID tag embedded with an EPC number, its origins, date of production and other information can be discovered simply by scanning the RFID tag and accessing a secure remote computer database.
EPC is the global RFID standard for numbering in the supply chain management space. As its adoption has spread, EPC is helping more and more businesses to control product quality, deliver goods on time and achieve optimal supply chain efficiency, which ultimately benefits the consumer.
EPC has been conceived as “an Internet of things”. The ultimate goal of EPC is that every item in the supply chain – down to the individual point of sale item – would be identified with its own unique number encoded in an RFID tag. Readers would capture the EPC number and constantly report the items’ location, condition and status to on-site information systems or remote databases via the Internet.
An EPC number is comprised of two building blocks. The first block is assigned by EPCglobal and consists of a header and an EPC Manager number. The second block is assigned by the company which owns the EPC Manager number. Together the two blocks make up a unique identification code for an item.
Radio Frequency Identification or RFID is a technology which uses radio wave communication to identify items. RFID technology has existed since World War II when it was used to distinguish friendly aircraft from enemy ones, and started to find commercial applications in the 1970s. Today it is one of the most powerful technologies for managing complex global supply chains.
In a typical RFID system, an item is given a tag, which will transmit a unique identity code when it is interrogated by a reader. This unique code is then used to look up information about the product on a computer database. RFID technology allows automatic object identification without line of sight, unlike barcode scanning. In addition, RFID tags can transmit and receive data, allowing them to be updated with new information as they move through the supply chain.
The heart of RFID technology is a tag consisting of a tiny silicon chip with an antenna. The chip in the tag contains information about the item that it is either attached to or embedded in. A unique number is generally stored on the tag for encrypting information which is transmitted to a reader using radio signals and stored in a database for access by authorized users.