Gen 2 is the shorthand name given to EPCglobal’s second-generation EPC protocol. It was designed to work internationally and has other enhancements such as a dense reader mode of operation, which prevents readers from interfering with one another when many are used in close proximity to one another.
How does the EPC work?
The EPC (electronic product code) is a string of numbers and letters, consisting of a header and three sets of data partitions. The first partition identifies the manufacturer. The second identifies the product type (stock keeping unit or SKU) and the third is the serial number unique to the item. By separating the data into partitions, readers can search for items with a particular manufacturer’s code or product code. Readers can also be programmed to search for EPCs with the same manufacturer and product code, but which have unique numbers in a certain sequence. This makes it possible, for example, to quickly find products that might be nearing their expiration date or that need to be recalled.
Why is EPC technology important?
EPC technology could dramatically improve efficiencies within the supply chain. The vision is to create near-perfect supply chain visibility—the ability to track every item anywhere in the supply chain securely and in real time. RFID can dramatically reduce human error. Instead of typing information into a database or scanning the wrong bar code, goods will communicate directly with inventory systems. Readers installed in factories, distribution centers, and storerooms and on store shelves will automatically record the movement of goods from the production line to the consumer.
How can a company track items using EPCs?
Companies have to create a network of RFID readers. In a warehouse for example, there could be readers around the doors on a loading dock and on every bay. When a pallet of goods arrives, the reader on the dock door picks up its unique license plate. Computers look up what the product is using the EPC Network. Inventory systems are alerted to its arrival. When the pallet is put in bay A, that reader sends a signal saying item 1-2345-67890 is in bay A.