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FT-mar16-Vol51-2 37 In every instance, RFID involves a reader sending electromagnetic radio waves through the air to a tag consisting of a microchip and an antenna. Most are passive tags, powered only by the radio waves transmitted at them and then capable of responding with a digital signal. Both reader and tag must be set to the same frequency in order to communicate information. EPC Gen 2 operates at ultra-high frequency (UHF) between 860- 960 megahertz and that’s a critical distinction from the low frequency applications of RFID mostly in use in this country today. UHF is the accepted frequency of use in supply chains across the world and consequently the vendor community for RFID hardware is now extensive. Two things make EPC Gen 2 so important to the future of supply chain management. First, this is technology with exceptional capabilities for tag reading and writing, largely because of its UHF characteristics. Some EPC Gen 2-certified readers can collect data from more than 1000 tags per second when conditions are favourable and read distances can be up to five metres. There are huge efficiency implications for the automatic tracking of large volumes of goods as they pass in and out of a warehouse door or shipping container. EPC Gen 2 tags can last a long time, with data retention of perhaps 50 years. Furthermore, in a field of hundreds of tags, each can be singled out by the reader so that it alone receives – or has written onto it – the unique identification number allocated to one single item. Again, there can be huge savings in time and cost as items move along the supply chain. The second strength of EPC Gen 2 is its capacity to carry a serialised Global Trade Item number or ‘sGTIN’. GTINs are, of course, already widely in use around the world as a core part of the GS1 System of global supply chain standards and are often referred to as the barcode number. A sGTIN is a combination of a globally unique identifier with an accompanying serial number that distinguishes identical items from each other – for example, one shirt or can of drink can be identified separately from another of the same brand, type, size and batch. This serialisation enables granular precision in the tracking and tracing of any item, if and when it is wanted. A sGTIN can be encoded into an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag using a GS1 standard that specifies where each digit in that sGTIN fit in the tag memory – and of course, there is a corresponding decoding process. Just as the GTIN (barcode number) has become the universally-used global standard for identification of items – products, pallets, containers and so on – so the sGTIN is universally considered the item identification standard for encoding/decoding RFID tags in global supply chains. It’s been the case for a decade now, with the take up of EPC Gen 2 globally. I am picking that most supply chain professionals know something of RFID and item tagging but very little about how this technology is now joined up with global standards for unique identification of items, and for data capture and sharing between trading partners. That’s what EPC Gen 2 does. I’m shocked that, in 2016, with billions of sGTIN tags being used every year in all facets of supply chain applications, solution providers across the world (and yes, here in New Zealand also) seem either totally unaware or completely indifferent to the need for the widely accepted global standard. So, for those thinking about deploying RFID as a potential solution…a heads up. Before you hire a solution provider for a RFID project, be sure they are well versed in the sGTIN standard, as the success of your deployment may depend on it. The future of near-perfect visibility in supply chains from end to end is indeed here; ensure you’re part of it. EPC Gen 2 operates at ultra-high frequency (UHF) between 860-960 megahertz and that’s a critical distinction from the low frequency applications of RFID mostly in use in this country today.

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