Written by Mike Meranda, President of EPCGlobal US
In my view, two of the most important milestones at this year's EPCglobal US 2005 Conference were the awarding of the first EPCglobal Hardware Certification Marks and the accreditation of four performance test centers. The announcements were among more than a dozen that end users, solution providers and EPCglobal Inc issued at this year's conference.
The announcement of the Certification Marks is an important milestone in the continuing build-out of the EPCglobal Network. It was just last December that the EPCglobal UHF Generation 2 Air Interface Protocol Standard was ratified.
As of this writing, there are seven manufacturers and ten products – nine readers and one chip – that have earned the EPCglobal Certification Mark. This means that those companies have submitted their products to MET Laboratories, a widely recognized, independent testing facility, which has certified that the products have been tested and will work according to the EPCglobal Gen 2 Standard.
It's important to note that, in the interest of preserving a fair and neutral testing environment, these products are not submitted to EPCglobal for approval.
We fully expect this list of certified manufacturers and products to grow, as solution providers design and build to EPCglobal standards. These include standards on reader protocol, reader management, and tag data, each leading to a culminating event – the EPC Information Systems (EPCIS) standard that will form the final component of the EPCglobal Network. The community is diligently working on EPCIS and we expect to produce a ratified standard in 2006.
The EPCglobal Mark is a stylized EPCglobal logo that includes an 18-digit Global Service Relation Number (GSRN) unique to the product and the specific series of tests it passed. Companies that purchase EPCglobal-certified hardware can use the GSRN to learn more about the specific tests and the results achieved.
In addition to the hardware certification marks, EPCglobal Inc also announced that four facilities have earned EPCglobal Performance Test Center Accreditation Marks. The Marks indicate the sites – in Arkansas and Wisconsin in the U.S., and in Taiwan and Germany, as well – use a standard set of performance test profiles in testing the readability of end-user products that are tagged with the Electronic Product Code. Here are the accredited sites:
The accreditation of those centers, as well as the increase of EPCglobal-certified manufacturers and products and continual standards maturation, is all great news for EPCglobal subscribers. That's because that's how the marketplace for EPC technologies will grow and one day support a robust, diverse, and dynamic Network serving multiple industries. The more certified products, the greater the downward pressure on prices and the easier it becomes to implement.
But in order for that growth to occur – for end-users to have the confidence needed to purchase the EPC solutions that will bring value to their internal processes and compliance with their customers' requests – standards aren't quite enough. There must also be a standardized way to bring trust to the equation. The EPCglobal Certification Mark will be that conduit of trust among participants in the EPCglobal Network.
This is how I see it: When we buy a light bulb, the UL trademark etched into it assures us that Underwriters Laboratories has already put that model through strenuous testing to ensure it does what it claims to do. Underwriters Laboratories tests the products of some 71,000 manufacturers each year, putting its mark of approval on more than 19 billion items in 2004. Its UL mark has become so ubiquitous, its absence would be more noticeable to us, perhaps, than its presence typically is.
Like the UL mark, the EPCglobal Certification Mark's presence on products will add another measure of assurance to end users that they can be confident the products will perform as promised. Soon we too will come to a time when, like the UL mark, end users will be more likely to notice the EPCglobal Mark's absence rather than its presence on the solutions that are purchased.
At this writing, Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Devices (AWiD), Impinj Inc., Intermec Technologies, MaxID Group, Symbol Technologies and ThingMagic have each produced products that have earned the Certification Mark, and we commend them for it. And as the build-out of the EPCglobal Network continues, their auspicious ranks will swell with others who know that the best way to build a lasting Network is to build it on trust.