The implementation of RFID tags will be the biggest technology challenge for retailers and their suppliers in the coming years. The technology, which enables goods to be electronically tracked along the supply chain, is gaining popularity among UK retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer but the lack of standards has hindered widespread adoption.
"Companies operating in a global market can rest assured there will now be a single, reliable standard for identifying and tracking products," said Andrew Osborne, director of policy and research at UK trade body e.centre. "For the first time, the theory has been put into practice and we have a tangible product that will drive true open, global supply chain standards."
According to e.centre, the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard, the result of an agreement between standards bodies EAN International and the Uniform Code Council - which oversee the barcode system - will take RFID out of academia and into the marketplace.
The EPC standard will see RFID use becoming more widespread, said Peter Jordan, director of IS strategic projects at food manufacturer Kraft Foods International. "Once standards are established and the big players, such as Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, adhere to them, others will follow," he said. "One of the keys to the EPC standard is that it offers a migration from other RFID standards and older systems, such as the barcode."
Auto-ID, the not-for-profit organisation set up by EAN International and the UCC to oversee RFID standards, will formally introduce the critical elements and specifications for the EPC network at a three-day symposium in Chicago starting on 15 September.