EPCglobal, which last month ratified the international industry standards known as Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS), said this week that the test was the first phase of the pilot project tracking sea containers in real time along the supply chain. The standardsset out the device and software interfaces for gathering supply chain data. It provides users with a single way to capture and share information with supply chain partners, even though they may be using different devices and software to read RFID tags. The royalty-free standards are the foundations in the continuing construction of a global supply chain information network that combines RFID technology, existing communications network infrastructure and EPC, a number for uniquely identifying an item. Craig Asher, an IBM manager and part of the EPCglobal software group, said the standard would help lower costs and bring greater efficiency to supply chains. "The EPCIS standard is a major step in the greater adoption of RFID and sensors that can help protect us from counterfeit drugs, secure our ports and provide food traceability," he said. The pilot test assessed the use of both passive and active EPC tags for the sea shipment of cartons and containers. The test matched tagged products with purchase orders for a footwear manufacturer. The specification supports container tracking, product authentication, promotions management, baggage tracking, electronic proof of delivery, chain of custody, returns management, and operations processes The project's second phase, scheduled for completion in February 2008, will test the exchange of information between end users, such as customs administrations for automatic customs clearance. The test will be on goods shipped from Shanghai to Long Beach, California. RFID has long been touted as the future of logistics for all companies by allowing retailers andsuppliers to track goods throughout the supply chain. A unified data system as developed by EPC would allow changes in information about product sizes,weight, name, price, classification, transport requirements and volumes to be immediatelytransmitted along the supply chain. For example it would allow shippers to immediately know if the amount of product stacked on a pallet had changed, or give a retailer time to adjust display space. Consumer giants such as Unilever and P&G as well as Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hormel Foods, Kraft, Wegmans Food Markets and Sara Lee areamong the food processors helping to develop the supply chain standard by using the EPCglobal'sGlobal Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). RFID uses a wireless system that helps enterprises track products, parts, expensive items and temperature-and time-sensitive goods. Transponders, or RFID tags, are attached to objects. The tag can then be read or can transmit information on the object to a reader via radio frequency transmission. Each RFID tag carries information on it such as a serial number, model number, colour, place ofassembly or other types of data.