The Cover PagesThe OASIS Cover Pages: The Online Resource for Markup Language Technologies
Advanced Search
Site Map
CP RSS Channel
Contact Us
Sponsoring CP
About Our Sponsors

Cover Stories
Articles & Papers
Press Releases

XML Query

XML Applications
General Apps
Government Apps
Academic Apps

Technology and Society
Tech Topics
Related Standards
Last modified: December 21, 2004
Physical Markup Language (PML) for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)


The goal of the Physical Markup Language (PML) "is to provide a standard vocabulary to represent and distribute information about Auto-ID enabled objects. It aims to standardize the interface between the Auto-ID infastructure (such as RFID readers) and other existing information systems such as ERP and SCM systems." [from Christian Floerkemeier]

[November 10, 2003]   Physical Markup Language (PML) Core Specification Version 1.0 for EPC Objects.    A PML Core Specification Version 1.0 has been published as an Auto-ID Center Recommendation. The specification documents the core part of the Physical Markup Language (PML Core), explaining details the scope of PML Core and its relation to the Physical Markup Language. The document provides usage scenarios, articulates the requirements, explains design decisions, and supplies XML schemas and sample instance documents. The goal of PML is to "provide a collection of common, standardized vocabularies to represent and distribute information related to EPC Network enabled objects." The EPC Network is "an enabling technology that will transform the global supply chain through a new, open global standard for real-time, automatic identification of items in the supply chain of any company; the EPC Network was developed by the Auto-ID Center, a global research team directed through MIT and affiliated labs around the world, supported by more than 100 leading companies." Examples of EPC objects include observations by sensors such as RFID readers, "configuration files for infrastructure components such as RFID readers or e-commerce documents featuring EPC data such as advanced shipping notices containing EPCs of the items shipped. Although these different vocabularies might have diverse contents, they will be using naming and design rules common to the PML. The PML vocabularies provide the XML definitions of the data exchanged between components in the EPC Network system. XML messages interchanged in the systems should be instantiated from these PML schemas. The PML development is part of the Auto-ID Center's effort to develop standardized interfaces and protocols for the communication with and within the Auto-ID infrastructure. PML does not attempt to replace existing vocabularies for business transactions or any other XML application libraries, but complements these by defining a new library containing definitions about EPC Network system related data."

[November 21, 2001]   Auto-ID Center Uses Physical Markup Language in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tag Technology.    The Auto-ID Center has begun field testing of its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system which supports automated supply chain transactions. One system component is the Physical Markup Language (PML), "an XML-based language for databasing information about physical objects. PML is designed to standardize descriptions of physical objects for use by both humans and machines; the primary objective of PML is to serve as a common base for the software applications, data storage and analytic tools for industry and commerce. The Auto-ID Center's vision is to revolutionize the way we make, buy, and sell products by merging bits (computers) and atoms (humans) together for optimal mutual communication. The system also uses the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a unique numbering scheme for every object in the world and an Object Name Service (ONS). RFID tags are built into objects like food, clothes, drugs or auto-parts, and read' by devices in the environment, e.g., in shelves, floors, doors." [Full context]

[November 21, 2001] Auto-ID Center Research overview: "The Auto-ID Center's vision is to revolutionize the way we make, buy, and sell products by merging bits (computers) and atoms (humans) together for optimal mutual communication. Everything will be connected in a dynamic, automated supply chain that joins businesses and consumers together to benefit global commerce and the environment. The Auto-ID Center opened at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA in October 1999; asecond lab opened at Cambridge University, UK in 2000. The Center is developing a standard system to identify objects using RFID [Radio Frequency Identification]. RFID tags are built into objects like food, clothes, drugs or auto-parts, and read' by devices in the environment, e.g., in shelves, floors, doors... The Center has over 30 sponsors including P&G, Gillette, UCC, EAN International, CHEP, International Paper, Sun Microsystems, Philip Morris Group, USPS, Philips, SAP, Unilever, Wal-Mart and Tesco...Field Testing started October 2001; prototype hardware will be tested 2002. Specifications and business cases could be published 2003. Commercial availability is not likely until 2004-5 earliest. ... End User companies make one donation of $300k; Technology companies pay $50k - $150k depending on sales. Field Test is extra. Trade bodies join the EPC Alliance, a free forum for dialogue."

"The Center's focus is open standard technology including: (1) a standard communication protocol for use in ~5" microchip-based RFID tags; (2) a reference design for a ~$100 reader with ~4 feet range using multiple frequencies, e.g., 13.56 MHz and 915MHz; (3) Electronic Product Code [EPC], a unique numbering scheme for every object in the world; (4) Object Name Service [ONS], a network directory to link EPCs to databased information; (5) Physical Mark-up Language [PML], an XML-based language for databasing information about physical objects. The Center also studies business cases and applications, often in conjunction with sponsors. Applications identified include supply chain applications (e.g., inventory reduction, improved availability, better quality and freshness); security (e.g., counterfeit protection, theft prediction) consumer (e.g., smart washing machines, refrigerators, ovens); environment (e.g., recycling). timings."

Technology and application summary:

A 96-bit code of numbers called an Electronic Product Code (ePC) is embedded in a memory chip (smart tag) on individual products. Each smart tag is scanned by a wireless radio frequency "reader," which transmits the product's embedded identity code to the Internet, where the "real" information on the product is kept. That information is then communicated back from cyberspace to provide whatever information is needed about that product.

The ePC works together with a Physical Markup Language (PML) and an Object Naming Service (ONS). PML is a new standard "language" for describing physical objects to the Internet in the same way that HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the common language on which most Internet web sites are based. The ONS tells computer systems where to find information about any object that carries an ePC code, or smart tag. ONS is based in part on the Internet's existing Domain Name System (DNS), which routes information to appropriate web sites. The ONS will likely be many times larger than the DNS, serving as a lightening fast "post office" that locates data for every single one of trillions of objects carrying an ePC code.

Auto-ID technology will help businesses save billions of dollars in lost, stolen, or wasted products. For example, Electronic Product Code (ePC) tags embedded into products will allow companies to pinpoint in real time batches of ground turkey that need to be recalled or replaced, reducing health risks to consumers. Monitoring "smart" recycling centers will help manufacturers determine how to make environmentally friendly products. Theft will be drastically reduced because items will report when they are stolen, their smart tags also serving as a homing device toward their exact location.

Benefits to consumers will be equally dramatic. Shoppers will be able to point their scanner-equipped cell phones at a product and learn about its features from the manufacturer's web site while they're in the store. Shopping will no longer involve long, tedious lines at the checkout counter because items are scanned and billed to your pre-selected personal account as you leave the store. And smart shelves will tell manufacturers when to restock items so that consumers will always have access to the things they need.

PML description:

The Physical Markup Language (PML) is intended to be a general, standard means for describing the physical world. Given the difficulty of such a task, we must carefully consider the objective of PML and its intended application. The objective of PML is a simple, general language for describing physical objects for use in remote monitoring and control of the physical environment. Applications include inventory tracking, automatic transaction, supply chain management, machine control, and object-to-object communication... Our approach will be to develop a series of core components that span the breadth of application, and which are independent of vertical industries. . . movement and location are critical to commerce and industry. Products have attributed values of worth, cost, price, and ownership. With work presented here and subsequent development, we wish to provide a series of basic components that capture these basic properties.

The Physical Markup Language exists as part of the 'intelligent infrastructure.' The intelligent infrastructure which we envision automatically and seamlessly links physical objects to each other, people and information through the global Internet. This intelligent infrastructure has four major components:electronic tags, Electronic Product Code (EPC), Physical Markup Language (PML), and Object Naming Service (ONS). Electronic tags refer to a family of technologies that transfer data wirelessly between tagged objects and electronic readers. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, often used in 'smart cards,' have small radio antennas, which transmit data over a short range. The Motorola BiStatix tags, an Electromagnetic Identification (EMID) technology, uses capacitive coupling to transmit information. Electronic tags, when coupled to a reader network, allow continuous tracking and identification of physical resources. In order to access and identify tagged objects, a unique naming system was developed.

The Electronic Product Code (EPC) was conceived as a means to identify physical objects. The EPC code was created to enumerate all objects and to accommodate current and future naming methods. The EPC code was intended to be universally and globally accepted as a means to link physical objects to the computer network, and to serve as an efficient information reference. The Object Naming Service (ONS) is the 'glue' which links the Electronic Product Code (EPC) with its associated data file. More specifically, the ONS is an automated networking service, which, when given an EPC number, returns a host addresses on which the corresponding data file is located. The ONS, currently under development, is based on the standard Domain Naming Service (DNS). When complete, the ONS will be efficient and scaleable, designed to handle the trillions of transactions that are expected.

Finally,the Physical Markup Language (PML) is intended to be the standard in which networked information about physical objects is written. In one sense, all the complexity of describing and classifying objects has moved away from the object label and into the PML file. The formation of this language -- together with the associated software tools and applications -- is one of the most difficult aspects of this 'Internet of Things.' [adapted from 'The Physical Markup Language: Core Components']

From the "Physical Markup Language Update" document, June 2002: "Information directly captured from the Auto-ID infrastructure is modeled as part of the physical markup language. Examples include: (1) Location information e.g., tag X was detected by reader Y, which is located at loading dock Z; (2) Telemetry information [Physical properties of an object e.g., its mass; Physical properties of the environment, in which a group of objects is located, e.g., ambient temperature]; (3) Composition information e.g., the composition of an individual logistical unit made up of a pallet, cases and items The information model will also include the history of the various information elements listed above e.g., a collection of the various single location readings will result in a location trace. On the other hand, the objective of PML development is to provide complete information about the object and to enable transactions. This requires information not captured by Auto-ID infrastructure directly, but aggregated from other sources. Among others this could include: (1) Product related information e.g., item information in the retail industry or technical datasheets in the high-tech industry (2) Process related information e.g., a link between an Auto-ID enabled object and an appropriate transaction like an advanced shipping notice The rationale to include both information which does and does not originate from the Auto-ID infrastructure is that only the knowledge of both can trigger the appropriate actions. For example temperature monitoring of a set of objects, combined with the product storage information allows for effective monitoring and exception handling of temperature-controlled goods..."

Principal References

  • Auto-ID Center web site

  • ePC Group: "A global strategic and tactical consulting practice concentrating on the successful, cost effective, adoption and implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology."

  • RFID FAQ document. Maintained by the RFID Journal. See also the glossary.

  • M-Lab: The Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing Lab. A Joint Initiative of HSG and ETH Zurich, in cooperation with the Auto-ID Center at MIT.

  • PML Core Specification 1.0. Auto-ID Center Recommendation for the Physical Markup Language. By Christian Floerkemeier (Auto-ID Center Lab Switzerland), Dipan Anarkat (Uniform Code Council), Ted Osinski (Uniform Code Council), and Mark Harrison (Auto-ID Center Lab UK). 15-September-2003. 48 pages. Section 6 (Appendix, pages 39-43) provides XML schemas for 'PmlCore.xsd' and 'Identifier.xsd'. Available from the Auto-ID Center. "This document has been reviewed by Auto-ID Center Members and other interested parties and has been endorsed by the Director of Auto-ID Center. It is a stable document and may be used as reference material or cited as a normative reference from another document. Comments on this document should be sent to the Auto-ID Software Action Group mailing list." [cache]

  • The Physical Markup Language: Core Components: Time and Place." By David L. Brock, Timothy P. Milne, Yun Y. Kang,and Brendon Lewis. "The Physical Markup Language (PML) is designed to be a common 'language' for describing physical objects, processes and environments. Clearly it is difficult to describe the physical world with sufficient detail to meet the need of every company, industry or organization. However, there are common characteristics of physical objects that nearly everyone can agree on. Objects have physical properties -- volume and mass. They often have structure -- assemblies and elements. They are owned and traded among companies and individuals. They exist in time and space. The core components of the Physical Markup Language are intended to capture these most basic physical properties of objects and environments. In this paper, we will describe the elements that define simple configuration, location, time, and measurement. Beyond these elements, we will extend the depth and complexity of object description with future development of the Physical Markup Language..." [cache]

  • The Physical Markup Language: A Universal Language for Physical Objects." By Dr.David L. Brock (Co-Director, Auto-ID Center). February 2001. The Physical Markup Language (PML) is intended to be a common language for describing physical objects, processes and environments. Much as the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) has standardized the way in which information is presented on the Internet. PML is designed to standardize descriptions of physical objects for use by both humans and machines. The primary objective of PML is to serve as a common base for the software applications, data storage and analytic tools for industry and commerce. In this paper Dr. Brock presents some fundamental issues in the design of the language, as well as the assumptions underlying its development and implementation." [cache]

  • [July 2002] "Physical Markup Language Version 1.0." By David Brock (Director, Auto-ID Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Cambridge). "PML goal: A common language for describing physical objects, systems, processes and environments. Features generality: Addresses largest numbers of industries; Encourages software development Describes common characteristics of physical objects; Encourages inter-industry cooperation and information transfer. PML will use the Extensible Markup Language (XML) as the method to store and transmit data. General XML utilities, viewers and validating software exist to parse, modify and access XML files..." [cache]

General: Articles, Papers, Presentations, News

  • [December 16, 2004] "EPCglobal Ratifies Royalty-Free UHF Generation 2 Standard. Announcement Marks Culmination of Collaborative Process. Opens Door for Proliferation of Standards-Based Hardware to Drive EPC Implementations Worldwide." - "EPCglobal Inc, a subsidiary of GS1 a not-for-profit standards organization entrusted with driving global adoption of Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology, today announced the ratification of the royalty-free EPCglobal UHF Generation 2 candidate specification. Today's announcement marks the much anticipated completion of the UHF Generation 2 air interface protocol as an EPCglobal standard. With the Generation 2 standard now in place, technology providers will create products that will meet the requirements of suppliers, manufacturers, and end users; and industries as a whole can drive EPC implementation with standards-based equipment. Today's announcement follows successful testing of prototypes from several technology providers, which illustrated that the ratified standard can meet the EPCglobal community end user requirements, as well as final determination that all intellectual property presented on a licensed basis during the standards development process was not necessary to the standard. Commercially available products are expected the first half of 2005. 'Today marks both an exciting culmination and a much anticipated beginning in the commercialization of RFID and EPC technology,' said Chris Adcock, president, EPCglobal Inc. 'Many of the world's leading technology companies collaborated to develop the UHF Generation 2 specification, and we celebrate and applaud their efforts as we launch the royalty-free UHF Generation 2 standard. With this standard in place, technology manufacturers and end users alike can begin exploring how to deploy the technology in such a way to make a significant impact in improving their own business.' The EPCglobal UHF Generation 2 protocol, a consensus standard built by more than 60 of the world's leading technology companies, describes the core capabilities required to meet the performance needs set by the end user community. The UHF Generation 2 standard will be used as a base platform upon which standards-based products and future improvements will be built. An EPCglobal standard ensures interoperability and sets minimum operational expectations for various components in the EPCglobal Network, including hardware components. While EPCglobal oversees interoperability and conformance testing of standards-based products, the actual development of these products comes from leading solution providers around the globe..." See also: (1) "Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Resources and Readings"; (2) "Patents and Open Standards."

  • [August 06, 2004] "An Analysis of Physical Object Information Flow within Auto-ID Infrastructure." By Tatsuya Inaba. Submitted to the [MIT] Engineering Systems Division on May 7, 2004 in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Engineering in Logistics. 9 pages [extract]. Abstract: "The application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been studied for decades, and many field trials have been executed to evaluate the usability of RFID systems, the business case of RFID applications and so forth. One of the trial fields is its application to supply chain management (SCM) because the RFID technologies are thought to improve visibility of physical objects dramatically. Through this trial phase, benefits and feasibility of RFID have been confirmed, and as a result, major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Metro, have decided to implement RFID. At the same time, these trials reveal the necessity of RFID standards. Among these newly developed RFID standards, Auto-ID standard, which was originally developed by Auto-ID Center, is a strong candidate to be a de-facto standard. Auto-ID technologies consist of data standards and software architecture components. Data standards also consist of two components: Electronic Product Code (EPC) and Physical Markup Language (PML). On the other hand, software architecture components consist of four components: readers, Savant, EPC Information Server (EPC-IS), and Object Name Service (ONS). EPC-IS, which defines the interface of the servers that store physical object information, plays a key role in realizing business processes that the RFID technologies are expected to realize. In this thesis, we propose architecture of EPC-IS by defining the requirements for EPC-IS through generic business processes executed in Auto-ID infrastructure. The architecture we propose is not a monolithic message schema but three simple message schemas with vocabulary sets that are separately defined in dictionaries. By taking this structure, we achieve robust and scalable interface. We also evaluate our proposal by applying it to the problems found in the RFID trials and possible future business processes..." See also the Appendix (Chapter 9) with dictionary schemas and XML instances.

  • [April 16, 2004] "Standardizing EPC Data-Sharing." By Mark Roberti. In RFID Journal (April 16, 2004). "MIT's Auto-ID Lab has formed a special interest group to develop a standard architecture for sharing real-time EPC event and sensor data over the Internet. The new network architecture will require the ability to process EPC event data — information about the movement of products carrying an EPC tag — written in the Physical Markup Language (PML), an XML variant developed by the Auto-ID Center. The event data, which may be encrypted or compressed, will need to be efficiently parsed and routed to different locations based on the content type or substance of these messages. On top of the network applications, there will also be business process rules (written in XML), which will add value to the network by automating routine functions. For instance, companies might set up business rules to alert a trading partner whenever a shipment of goods with EPC tags arrives at a distribution center. The protocols to allow the sharing of information and the XML business rules need to be fleshed out and standardized before the EPC Network can take off as a fully collaborative environment..."

  • [September 09, 2003] "WhereNet Adds BI to RFID Asset Management. Rules-Based Engine Uses Wireless Tags to Help Companies Keep Track of Resources." By Ephraim Schwartz. In InfoWorld (September 08, 2003). "WhereNet, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that helps companies wirelessly track the location of everything from shopping carts to shipping containers, will announce this week that it is adding a business intelligence, rules-based engine to its location-based software. The first iteration of the application, WhereSoft Yard Version 4.0, is targeted at deconsolidators -- companies that take imported cargo typically brought in by container ships, break it down, and send out the contents across the country to domestic warehouses and regional distribution centers. WhereSoft Yard is transitioning location-based data from tracking to resource management by using a rules engine along with the real-time location system... The Yard management application goes beyond knowing what containers have come into the yard to determining who the carrier is, what terminal the container came from, and how to keep like equipment from the same shipper next to each other. 'When a drayman brings in the next load, we want him to drop a load and pick up an empty [container]. If they are next to each other, he is in and out quickly,' The software will allow NYK to increase dock door usage, reduce yard congestion, and increase the number of daily turns in the yard. While WhereNet has long been working with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology for improved resource management, Version 4.0 is the first of is kind, according to one analyst. 'It is new. It could be a big deal. Companies have location data in their database, the items associated with a container -- now WhereNet is providing an event management application on top of that,' said Bret Kinsella, global lead for Sapient Supply Chain group in Cambridge, Mass. RFID tagging technology is finding a wide array of uses. In April 2002, WhereNet was instrumental in a pilot program for a supermarket chain that put RFID tags on all of its shopping carts and handbaskets in a test store. The purpose was to track customer movement in order to understand traffic patterns and design stores more efficiently. The WhereNet solution is part of a bigger supply chain story whose goal it is to have all supply chain participants make decisions off the same set of data..."

  • [September 2003] "Software, Part 2: Network Architecture and Data Formats. Physical Mark-Up Language (PML), PML servers, and Object Name Service." Presented by Robin Koh (Associate Director, Auto-ID Center) and Christian Floerkemeier (PhD Candidate, Auto-ID Center). Tuesday September 16, 2003. Event: Inaugural EPC Executive Symposium.

  • [August 29, 2003] "MIT to Uncork Futuristic Bar Code." By Alorie Gilbert. In CNET (August 29, 2003). "A group of academics and business executives is planning to introduce next month a next-generation bar code system, which could someday replace with a microchip the series of black vertical lines found on most merchandise. The so-called EPC Network, which has been under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for nearly five years, will make its debut in Chicago on Sept. 15, at the EPC Symposium. At that event, MIT researchers, executives from some of the largest global companies, and U.S. government officials intend to discuss their plans for the EPC Network and invite others to join the conversation. The attendee list for the conference reads like a who's who of the Fortune 500: Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Heinz, J.C. Penney, Kraft Foods, Nestle, PepsiCo and Sara Lee, among others. An official from the Pentagon is scheduled to speak, along with executives from Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and United Parcel Service... EPC stands for electronic product code, which is the new product numbering scheme that's at the heart of the system. There are several key differences between an EPC and a bar code. First, the EPC is designed to provide a unique serial number for every item in the system. By contrast, bar codes only identify groups of products. So, all cans of Diet Coke have the same bar code more or less. Under EPC, every can of Coke would have a one-of-a-kind identifier. Retailers and consumer-goods companies think a one-of-a-kind product code could help them to reduce theft and counterfeit goods and to juggle inventory more effectively. 'Put tags on every can of Coke and every car axle, and suddenly the world changes,' boasts the Web site of the Auto-ID Center, the research group at MIT leading the charge on the project. 'No more inventory counts. No more lost or misdirected shipments. No more guessing how much material is in the supply chain--or how much product is on the store shelves.' Another feature of the EPC is its 96-bit format, which some say is large enough to generate a unique code for every grain of rice on the planet... Working on the standards problem is AutoID, a new arm of the Uniform Code Council, the nonprofit that administers the bar code, or Universal Product Code. AutoID, announced in May, plans to pick up where MIT's Auto-ID Center leaves off, assigning codes, ironing out technical standards, managing intellectual property rights, publishing specifications, and providing user support and training..."

  • [August 29, 2003] "PML Server Developments." By Mark Harrison, Humberto Moran, James Brusey, and Duncan McFarlane. White Paper. Auto-ID Centre, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, UK. June 1, 2003. 20 pages. This paper extends our previous white paper on our PML Server prototype work. We begin with a brief review of the Auto-ID infrastructure, then consider the different types of essential data which could be stored about a tagged physical object or which relate to it. In our data model we distinguish between data properties at product-class level and at instance-level. Product-class properties such as mass, dimensions, handling instructions apply to all instances of the product class and therefore need only be stored once per product class, using a product-level EPC class as the lookup key. Instance-level properties such as expiry date and tracking history are potentially unique for each instance or item and are logically accessed using the full serialised EPC as the lookup key. We then discuss how a PML Service may use data binding tools to interface with existing business information systems to access other properties about an object besides the history of RFID read events which were generated by the Auto-ID infrastructure. The penultimate section analyses complex queries such as product recalls and how these should be handled by the client as a sequence of simpler sub-queries directed at various PML services across the supply chain. Finally, we introduce the idea of a registry to coordinate the fragmented PML Services on a supply chain in order to perform tracking and tracing more efficiently and facilitate a complex query, which requires iterative access to multiple PML Services in order to complete it... The key to the Auto-ID architecture is the Electronic Product Code (EPC) which extends the granularity of identity data far beyond that which is currently achieved by most bar code systems in use today. The EPC contains not only the numeric IDs of the manufacturer and product type (also known as stock-keeping unit or SKU) but also a serial number for each item or instance of a particular product type. Whereas two apparently identical instances or items of the same product type may today have the same bar code, they will in future have subtly different EPCs, which allows each one to have a unique identity and to be tracked independently. In order to minimise the costs of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, the Auto-ID Centre advocates that only a minimal amount of data (the EPC) should be stored on the tag itself, while the remaining data about a tagged object should be held on a networked database, with the EPC being used as a database key to look up the data about a particular tagged object. Within the Auto-ID infrastructure, the Savant, Object Name Service (ONS) and PML Service are all networked databases of some form. Edge Savants interface directly with RFID readers and other sensors and generate Auto-ID event data, typically consisting of triples of three values (Reader EPC, Tag EPC, Timestamp) and an indication of whether the tag has been 'added' or 'removed' from the field of the tag readers. The Object Name Service (ONS) is an extension of the internet Domain Name Service (DNS) and provides a lookup service to translate an EPC number into an internet address where the data can be accessed. Data about the tagged object is communicated using the Physical Markup Language (PML) and the PML Service provides additional information about the tagged object from network databases. The Physical Markup Language (PML) does not specify how the data should be stored, only how it should be communicated. It should be possible for many different types of existing information systems to act as data sources to the PML Service, and for the data to be queried and communicated using the PML language and by reference to the PML schema rather than by reference to the particular structure/schema of the various underlying databases in which the values are actually stored..." [cache]

  • [August 18, 2003] "California State Senate Subcommittee on New Technologies Hearing on RFID and Privacy." Testimony of Kevin Ashton (Executive Director, Auto-ID Center). "The Auto-ID Center is an academic research project headquartered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. We have five other research labs around the world: at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom; the University of Adelaide in Australia; Keio University in Tokyo, Japan; Fudan University in Shanghai, China; and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Over 100 sponsors fund the Center's work, including nine Corporations headquartered here in California. Our research topic is Automatic Identification. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is an important part of the system we are developing. Security and privacy in RFID systems is a major area of our work, and has been since 2000. I attach as background: our Technology Guide, which describes RFID technology; a technical paper on RFID Privacy and Security; a paper describing consumer research the Center conducted during 2002; a briefing on previous cases of public concern with new technology; and a paper outlining various approaches to regulation of RFID. All of our research, including this material, is publicly available on our web site. I would be happy to make the Center's research team available to provide briefings on specific areas as the subcommittee requires... There are two aspects to our research on questions [of privacy]: technology and policy. In the technology area, we are developing as many ways as possible to provide security and privacy in the system. For example, our first innovation, which we developed in 2001, was a technology called kill'. All our EPC RFID tag specifications include the requirement that the tag will deactivate irrevocably if it receives a kill command'...The second area, policy, follows naturally from this. Building kill' into the system is no use unless the capability is made available to the consumer, so the next question is what usage policies should be adopted, and how should they be implemented and regulated...our recommendation on EPC and Privacy will likely embody three principles: (1) Notice: the right to know whether a product contains and EPC tag, and whether a public place is using RFID readers (2) Choice: the right to have the EPC tags in the purchased products deactivated without cost (3) Control: the right to have Personal Identity Information kept separate from Object Identity Information..."

  • [July 22, 2003] "Auto-ID Center Opens Demo Lab." By [RFID Journal Staff]. In RFID Journal News (July 11, 2003). ['The center today opened a robotic demonstration lab at its facility in Cambridge, England, to show off RFID's manufacturing capabilities.'] "Most of the focus on low-cost RFID has been on moving items from manufacturer to distribution center to store. Today, the Auto-ID Center opened a robotic demonstration at its facility in Cambridge, England, which shows the value of robots being able to identify unique items... The demonstration highlights automatic picking, placing, storage and flexible packaging. The lab has product bins where tagged items are stored before being packed. There is a packing area, where empty gift boxes come in, and a storage area for individual items that haven't been packed. A robot in the middle of the station can perform several different tasks. The robot chooses from a variety of Gillette products, including razors and deodorants, to assemble a gift pack. There are two different types of packaging. As a new package comes into the station, the RFID tag on it tells the robot what type of package it is and triggers the order... [In the Auto-ID Center's system] the RFID tag contains an EPC, a serial number that identifies the unique item. When a reader picks up an EPC code, it sends the number to a computer running something called a Savant. Savants are distributed software programs that manage data. They can, for instance, eliminate duplicate codes if two readers pick up the same item. The Savant sends the EPC to an Object Name Service, which is similar to the Web's Domain Name Service. ONS points the Savant to a Physical Markup Language (PML) server where data on the product is stored. PML is [based upon] XML, created by the Auto-ID Center to describe products in ways computers could understand and respond to. The PML server then sends instructions to the robot. Mark Harrison, a research associate at the Auto-ID Center, says the the robot needs only to be connected to the Internet. Instructions can be sent from a PML server located literally anywhere in the world; to reduce latency, of course, it makes sense to use a PML server located fairly close to the robot. Harrison says that the interaction between the item and the robot happens quickly because only a small fragment of the PML file is actually sent to the robot..." Note, on the (evidently misplaced) concern for privacy, WRT RFID: "Big Brother's Enemy," by RFID Journal editor Mark Roberti.

  • [July 11, 2003] "RFID Technology Guide." By Mark Roberti (Auto-Id Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). July 11, 2003. 24 pages. "... The Electronic Product Code identifies individual products, but all the useful information about the product is written in a new, standard computer language we call Physical Markup Language (PML). PML is based on the widely accepted eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Because it's meant to be a universal standard for describing all physical objects, processes and environments, PML will be broad and will cover all industries. Our aim is to start with a simple language to encourage adoption. PML can evolve over time, just as HTML, the basic language of the Web, has become more sophisticated since it was introduced. PML will provide a common method for describing physical objects. It will be broadly hierarchical. So, for instance, a can of Coke might be described as a carbonated beverage, which would fall under the subcategory soft drink, which would fall under the broader category food. Not all classifications are so simple, so to ensure that PML has broad acceptance, we are relying on work already done by standards bodies, such as the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (Le Système International d'Unités - SI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States. Types of PML Data: In addition to product information that doesn't change (such as material composition), PML will include data that changes constantly (dynamic data) and data that changes over time (temporal data). Dynamic data in a PML file might include the temperature of a shipment of fruit, or vibration levels from a machine. Temporal data changes discretely and intermittently throughout an object's life. One example is an object's location. By making all of this information available in a PML file, companies will be able to use information in new and innovative ways. A company could, for instance, set triggers so the price of a product falls as its expiration date approaches. Third party logistics providers could offer service-level contracts indicating that goods will be stored at a certain temperature as they are transported..."

  • [July 07, 2003] "Business Technology: Timing Is Everything In Making Jump To RFID." In InformationWeek (July 07, 2003). "'Now is the time. It's not too late. A year from now is too late.' The quotation comes from Mike DiYeso, chief operating officer of the Uniform Code Council, which 30 years ago began pushing universal product codes that have since become ubiquitous in things like scannable bar codes. DiYeso spoke those lines during a talk focusing on the rapidly emergent technology of RFID, or radio-frequency identification, at the recent Retail Systems Conference... I think it's just about impossible to overstate the business impact that RFID technologies could have if they're deployed thoughtfully and broadly. Efficiency, security, timeliness, paper reduction, accuracy, automation, visibility, tracking, load optimization, and collaboration are only the first of many areas that will be reshaped and probably dramatically improved via these tiny antenna-equipped chips. We first covered this new technology in September [2002] when researchers from the Auto-ID Center at MIT said that a combination of technological breakthroughs plus broader industry acceptance could push the unit price for these highly intelligent devices down to 5 cents or less..." Note: According to RFID Journal, "The Japanese government has allocated 950 to 956 MHz for RFID, paving the way for the global adoption of UHF tags for supply chain tracking. UHF is critical to the widespread adoption of RFID because it's the only frequency band that provides the extended read range needed to track goods in a supply chain setting. Most governments have already set aside 13.56 MHz for high-frequency RFID systems, which are suitable for applications where longer read ranges are not critical. But countries have not been able to harmonize the use of the UHF spectrum for RFID... The decision by the Japanese government is significant because it paves the way for a truly global system of tracking goods using UHF tags. The rest of Asia will likely follow in Japan's footsteps because Japan is such a powerful economic force in the region. China, in fact, is already looking to open up the UHF spectrum for RFID systems..."

  • [May 21, 2003] "UCC Finalizes Agreement with MIT. Forms Joint Venture with EAN International to Drive Standards for Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network." - "The Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC) and EAN International, leaders in facilitating efficient international business, announced today at the UCC's annual U Connect Conference, the intention to establish AutoID, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that will develop and oversee commercial and technical standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network. The EPC Network, based on research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), uses radio frequency in combination with a network system to allow items or products to be identified. This technology will enable companies to have true visibility of their supply chains in real time, in any industry, anywhere in the world. AutoID, Inc. is an initiative between the UCC and EAN International. Both organizations have more than 25 years developing standards for the Universal Product Code (U.P.C.) and EAN13, now incorporated in the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). Through the global standards of the EAN-UCC System, nearly one million member companies in more than 140 countries worldwide conduct business every day using bar codes and related electronic communications... The EPC Network was developed by the Auto-ID Center, a not-for-profit global research project headquartered at MIT. In addition to a research lab at MIT, the Center has established research facilities at Cambridge University in England, Adelaide University in Australia, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Keio University in Japan, and Fudan University in China. 'We knew that our research would one day migrate from the lab to real world applications,' said Sanjay Sarma, co-founder and chairman of research at the Auto-ID Center and professor in the department of mechanical engineering at MIT. 'That day has come, and we are pleased to work with the UCC and EAN International not only to bring this technology to market, but to continue to refine it in the future.' AutoID, Inc. will continue to work closely with Professor Sarma and lead researchers at the Center's sister labs around the world..." Note: the AutoID, Inc. FAQ document references 'Physical Markup Language (PML)' as one of the EPC network's "five fundamental elements that enable the automatic identification and tracking of physical objects in real time..." See also "Uniform Code Council (UCC) XML Program."

  • [March 2003] "Interaction in Pervasive Computing Settings using Bluetooth-enabled Active Tags and Passive RFID Technology together with Mobile Phones." By Frank Siegemund and Christian Flörkemeier (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, Department of Computer Science, Institute for Pervasive Computing). 10 pages. Published in the Proceedings of PerCom 2003 (IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications), March 2003. "Passive RFID technology and unobtrusive Bluetooth-enabled active tags are means to augment products and everyday objects with information technology invisible to human users. This paper analyzes general interaction patterns in such pervasive computing settings where information about the user's context is derived by a combination of active and passive tags present in the user's environment. We distinguish between interaction that is initiated by smart objects and interaction initiated by human users, and investigate how an association between interaction partners can take place through explicit human actions as well as invisibly through context information provided by active tags. The concept of invisible preselection of interaction partners based on the user's context is introduced. It enables unobtrusive interaction with smart objects in that it combines different forms of association, e.g. implicit and user initiated association, by transferring interaction stubs to mobile devices based on the user's current situation. Invisible preselection can also be used for remote interaction. By assigning phone numbers to smart objects, we propose making this remote user interaction with everyday items and their virtual counterparts as easy as making a phone call. Mobile phones are also used as mobile infrastructure access points for smart objects. We evaluate the suitability of the proposed concepts on the basis of three concrete examples: a product monitoring system, a smart medicine cabinet, and a remote interaction application..." [abstract, cache]

  • [January 13, 2003] "Now the Hard Part." By Mark Roberti (Editor, RFID Journal). In RFID Journal OPINION ['Despite all of the excitement about low-cost RFID tags, the biggest challenge is creating the IT infrastructure.'] "Low-cost UHF tags from Alien Technology and Matrics are about to hit the market. Other chipmakers will soon introduce their own UHF products. And a number of hardware manufacturers are working on multi-frequency, multi-protocol readers that can pick up the Auto-ID Center's Electronic Product Code (EPC)... The biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of the Auto-ID Center's technology is going to be the backend infrastructure. The three key components being developed by the center are: Savants, software that manages data from the readers; the Object Name Service (ONS), which points computers to information about products that are identified; and the Physical Markup Language (PML), which enables computers to understand some basic properties of physical objects. ONS seems to be working well, but the Physical Markup Language is a very difficult challenge. There is, ultimately, no way to create a global computer language for describing every object on earth. So PML will have to evolve over time. The center has taken a sensible approach. It is trying to create a foundation that industry organizations can build on, since each industry has its own requirements. Given the slow progress we've seen with industries trying to create standards for sharing data over the Web, PML is going to take years to reach maturity... Installing readers, putting tags on items and reading the tags is not that difficult. Turning data from tags and readers into information that companies can use to improve the way they do business is the real challenge. It's good that companies are beginning to learn about low-cost RFID. And I absolutely believe that when done right, RFID systems can bring important benefits to both the top and bottom lines. But I hope that the focus now shifts away from the price of the tags and readers and towards the issue of turning data into information that can be acted on. Because that's the hard part..."

  • [November 13, 2002] "PML Core Research Status." PML Update. By Christian Floerkemeier. November 13, 2002. 16 pages. This update surveys: (1) the Objectives of the Physical Markup Language (PML); (2) PML in relation to other Auto-ID infrastructure; (3) PML Core use cases and XML instances. The objectove of PML is to provide a common standardized vocabulary to distribute and represent information related to Auto-ID enabled objects. PML Core is used to describe data directly generated by the Auto-ID infrastructure e.g., RFID readers, aggregation sensors, temperature sensors. PML Extensions are used to provide data describing Auto-ID enabled objects e.g., product related information and process related information PML core application interface: The two main use cases are object tracking ('where has the object been?') and location monitoring ('what has been here?'). Core API abstracts from underlying sensor technology, and introduces the concept of a located-object, which refers to all real-world entities that can be tracked. Each located-object can represent a location itself (e.g., a pallet). It uses a hierarchical location model in which location domains are ordered by a 'contain' relationship... PML core schemas are based on XML Schema release of the W3C (use XML Schema features to enforce datatypes and structure); they were developed following the guidelines of ebXML Core Component Specification (CCTS Version 1.8)... [adapted from the slideset; see the PDF]

  • [October 08, 2002] "The New Network: Smart Objects, Smarter Companies." By Dirk Heyman (Chairman Technology Board Auto-ID; EMEA Head Life Sciences, Sun Microsystems Inc.) and Christian Flörkemeier (M-Lab). October 8, 2002. 20 pages. Auto-ID is "A global collaborative effort, driven by: Several of the world's leading (Fortune 500) companies; Government organizations; Standardization organizations; Academic institutions; Systems integrators; and Technology hardware & software providers. [Its goal is] to create standards & technologies for smart objects by identifying objects uniquely and by linking objects to the internet continuously and wirelessly, thus bridging the gap between the physical world (atoms) and the world of computers (bits), so that computer systems can sense the real world and information systems can make more significant decisions. How? Use low cost RFID tags (goal is 5c and lower) and ePC code (64 or 96 bits long, future 256). Multi-frequency readers reads ePC code sent by the tag. Savant middleware (Java) seeks right address via ONS (DNS), which points to the address where object data is stored. The Object is described via PML = Physical Markup Language (XML based). Significant business drivers: (1) Theft/shrinkage: $60bn of goods will be stolen in stores between now and 2004, and up to 20% of goods get lost between supplier and store. (2) Supply chain: 14 Sponsors estimate to have 555.3 bn items in supply chain (adjusted for double counting), w/ Out of stock estimated at 3-4% of total sales of store, higher for promotional items, Shrinkage and shelf availability key issue. (3) Product tracking, pin-pointed product recall: Recalls of products monitored by the FDA have risen from 1,500 in 1988 to 4,500 in 2001 causing major problems for individual and institutional customers. Other agencies have seen a sharp increase as well (Department of Agriculture +24% 2001/2000). Return rate is ca 20%..." [cache]

  • [September 14, 2002] "Physical Markup Language Update." By Christian Floerkemeier and Robin Koh. Auto-ID Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA. June 2002. 9 pages. [The article gives 'an overview of the efforts to develop a Physical Markup Language (PML). The main goal of the Physical Markup Language is to provide a common, standardized vocabulary to represent and distribute information related to Auto-ID enabled objects. In this document, the types of information modeled in this vocabulary and their main usage scenarios are discussed. This brief also describes the division of the development effort into a PML Core component and a PML Extension component. The former focuses on developing a vocabulary to model the data directly generated by the Auto-ID infrastructure -- such as location and telemetry information. The work related to the PML Extensions leverages existing developments in the world of e-commerce standards to combine the low-level, instance-specific Auto-ID generated data with high-level product- and process-related information.'] "The main use of the PML language is to act as a common interface between the various components in the Auto-ID infrastructure... To facilitate the orderly development of the Physical Mark-Up Language (PML), research has been divided initially into two primary sections: PML Core and PML Extensions. PML Core provides the common standardized vocabulary to distribute information directly captured from the Auto-ID infrastructure e.g., location, composition and other telemetric information. As this level of data was not readily available before Auto-ID, PML Core has to be developed to represent it. PML Extensions are used to integrate information that is not generated by the Auto-ID infrastructure and is aggregated from other sources. The first extension that will be implemented is the PML Commerce Extension. The PML Commerce Extension involves the rich choreography and process standards that enable transactions within and between organizations to take place. Many organizations are already working on these standards and Auto-ID will evaluate and integrate the ones that best fit its users' requirements... The PML development team decided to regard XML Schemas as the implementation syntax for the PML and rely on the Unified Modeling Language (UML) to represent the model and share the PML definitions with its users. UML was chosen since it was perceived as a widely adopted standard for system specification and design. This approach will allow us to benefit from the advantages of XML Schemas over DTDs and at the same time still enable us to easily share the definitions and underlying models with a wider audience... The original XML specification did not include a way to combine several vocabularies when composing a document. This capability is however essential if the reuse of industry standard vocabularies is to be promoted rather than forcing each application to reinvent the same definitions. The XML Namespace specification was written to address this requirement. The framework to support PML Core and PML Extensions will be based on a combination of XML Schemas and Namespaces. The XML Schemas define and document the vocabulary. They also intend to allow for a straightforward validation of structural and semantic accuracy. The XML Namespaces enable the reuse of existing XML-based e-commerce standards within the framework..." [cache]

  • [July 11, 2002] "Auto-ID Center Opens Demonstration Lab In the U.K." By [Staff]. In RFID Journal (July 11, 2002). "Most of the focus on low-cost RFID has been on moving items from manufacturer to distribution center to store. Today, the Auto-ID Center opened a robotic demonstration at its facility in Cambridge, England, which shows the value of robots being able to identify unique items... The lab has product bins where tagged items are stored before being packed. There is a packing area, where empty gift boxes come in, and a storage area for individual items that haven't been packed. A robot in the middle of the station can perform several different tasks. The robot chooses from a variety of Gillette products, including razors and deodorants, to assemble a gift pack. There are two different types of packaging. As a new package comes into the station, the RFID tag on it tells the robot what type of package it is and triggers the order. The robot is instructed to place several specific items into that package. It can read the electronic product codes (EPCs) stored in the RFID tags on all of the items, so it can identify the right products for the gift pack. The Auto-ID Center researchers have also created a graphical user interface that allows a user to custom configure a package. The robot is then able to identify each product and assemble the package based on the user's instructions... The RFID tag contains an EPC, a serial number that identifies the unique item. When a reader picks up an EPC code, it sends the number to a computer running something called a Savant. Savants are distributed software programs that manage data. They can, for instance, eliminate duplicate codes if two readers pick up the same item. The Savant sends the EPC to an Object Name Service, which is similar to the Web's Domain Name Service. ONS points the Savant to a physical markup language (PML) server where data on the product is stored. PML is a derivative of XML created by the Auto-ID Center to describe products in ways computers could understand and respond to. The PML server then sends instructions to the robot. Mark Harrison, a research associate at the Auto-ID Center, says the the robot needs only to be connected to the Internet. Instructions can be sent from a PML server located literally anywhere in the world. (To reduce latency, of course, it makes sense to use a PML server located fairly close to the robot.) Harrison says that the interaction between the item and the robot happens quickly because only a small fragment of the PML file is actually sent to the robot. The demonstration is designed to generate awareness of the Auto-ID Center within Europe. Potential sponsors can arrange to come to the center to see the demonstration. About 100 people, including existing and potential sponsors, are expected to attend the launch today..."

  • "The Auto-ID Center. An Open Initiative Supported by Sun Microsystems." "The mission of the Auto-ID Center is to merge the physical world with the information world by setting standards for smart objects. By bringing bits and atoms together, the project can help create an environment where connectivity is not limited to computers, but also includes everyday objects, linked together and communicating in real time, all of the time. This will help transform the way products are made, distributed, marketed, purchased, consumed, replenished, and recycled. When the new EPC standard is introduced, it will enable products ranging from airplane engines to bottles of shampoo to be linked to the Internet... The EPC will provide even more detailed information than the UPC, because instead of a unique ID for a group of products, the EPC creates an ID for each individual product. This ID is embedded on a memory chip (smart tag) that utilizes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to connect the object to the Internet. Costing no more than a few cents, these tags will be applied to individual products during the manufacturing process. In turn, the tags will communicate their EPC codes to radio frequency reader devices located in plants, warehouses, stores, and homes. When a smart tag is scanned by a reader, it will wirelessly echo back a unique code. The reader will use this code to discover productspecific information provided by the product's manufacturer on a public Internet site. This information will be stored in the Product Markup Language (PML) standard format, allowing a human operator, the radio frequency reader, and devices linked to the reader to interact intelligently with the product. PML is a derivative of the well-known XML markup language for describing physical objects to the Internet, similar to the HyperText Markup Language (HTML). An Object Naming Service (ONS) tells computer systems where to find information about any object that carries an EPC code. ONS is based on the Internet's existing Domain Name System (DNS), which routes information to appropriate Web sites. However, the ONS has the capability to be many times larger than the DNS, because Auto-ID technology can identify millions of manufacturers, each with more than one million individual products. ONS will serve as a lightning-fast post office that locates data for trillions of objects carrying an EPC code. To encourage widespread adoption, both ONS and PML will be open standards, just like the UPC bar code..." [cache]

  • [November 21, 2001] "Bar Codes In A Chip. Technology Could Transform Product Tracking." By Margie Semilof. In InternetWeek (November 16, 2001). "A growing number of companies that make and sell consumer products are testing a budding technology that could transform the way industries use the Internet to track goods in their supply chains. The technology, under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, takes over where bar codes leave off. Whereas bar codes use an imprint that must be manually scanned, the so-called Auto-ID technology uses a microchip tag that contains an electronic product code. The tag is affixed to a pallet of goods, and wireless readers placed on forklifts, walls or store shelves automatically track the merchandise as it moves from place to place... Consumer goods companies are hopeful that RF ID tags will cut supply chain management costs by billions of dollars. Today's manually operated bar code scanners are imperfect because they're prone to human error. Companies can easily lose track of cases that accidentally aren't scanned...As the technology improves, pallets will give way to cases and perhaps individually packaged goods, ultimately enabling companies to follow those goods to the point of sale. The Auto-ID project is spearheaded by some of the world's largest consumer packaged goods, retail and computer companies, including International Paper, Procter & Gamble, Sun Microsystems, Unilever and Wal-Mart, and is supported by the Uniform Code Council, a standards body that represents companies in 23 industries. After two years of planning and design, MIT's Auto-ID Center started test-driving its prototype on October 1. In the test, a commercially made radio frequency (RF) tag was affixed to a pallet of Procter & Gamble's Bounty paper towels at a factory in Cape Girardeau, Mo., to track the pallet's progress all the way to a Wal-Mart Sam's Club warehouse in Tulsa, Okla. Two million such tags have been tested, and next month the trials will escalate when Unilever and Gillette join in. The second phase of the trial will begin early next year, when participants start tagging cases of goods instead of pallets... Tags' DNS System: One important consideration is who will manage an MIT-developed object naming service, which helps identify new items as they arrive on a loading dock for the first time. The ONS, a key part of the system, works the same way the Internet's Domain Name System searches for URLs. When a product arrives on a shipping dock and the receiver can't identify the contents, the tag's ID code is sent via the Internet to the ONS, which looks up the information. The ONS uses a specially created physical markup language, based on XML but for physical objects, to cross-check information on the RF tag with information in the ONS. Future owners of the ONS might be either the World Wide Web Consortium or the Internet Engineering Task Force, said Kevin Ashton, executive director of MIT's Auto-ID Center."

  • [December 20, 2001] "Smart Tags are Helping the War -- And Businesses Too. Radio-frequency ID Tags Offer New Efficiency In Supply-Chain Management" By Steve Konicki. In InformationWeek (December 10, 2001). "The U.S. military and commercial businesses have a common challenge: the need to skillfully manage supply-chain logistics. Be it the assembly of cars or the maintenance of attack helicopters, the timely coordination of parts and supplies is key to success. A new class of radio-frequency ID systems is being brought to bear in both arenas, bringing unprecedented efficiency and control to the shipment of everything from canned peas to Humvees. The military is using RFID in conjunction with the satellite-based global positioning system to track virtually every shipment destined for the war in Afghanistan. RFID smart tags can be affixed to boxes, pallets, and industrial shipping containers to transmit the location and status of goods en route... Basic RFID tags, such as the passive read-only type widely used in retail, have been around for more than 10 years, and their prices have dropped to as little as 25 cents each. Newer tags, called active tags, contain memory chips that can be programmed to include information about what's in a pallet or box. They can cost as little as $3 in large quantities. Savi's combination device that includes active RFID, GPS, and wireless communications can cost $500 each in quantities of 50,000. Throw in the cost of additional software and infrastructure upgrades, and a complete system can range from $150,000 to several million dollars. Kevin Ashton, executive director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID Center, which is researching new uses for RFID technology with sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Wal-Mart, says the lack of software to manage the data these smart tags emit is a barrier to adoption... Savi's SmartChain software is designed to handle the large amounts of data generated by real-time tracking, but mainstream supply-chain management software typically can't do the job. Most RFID vendors say their software uses XML and open APIs to make integration easier with existing supply-chain apps. ... Volkswagen is using new technology, dubbed Intelligent Long Range RFID from Identec Solutions to check the location of finished and near-finished autos at plants in Germany. A single device that combines GPS and RFID capabilities is placed on the windshield of every car on large lots. A security guard making rounds takes inventory of cars every hour by driving around the lot on a golf cart equipped with an RFID reader connected to a notebook computer, which links via wireless LAN to Volkswagen's inventory-management software..." Note also a technology overview presented in the sidebar, "Bringing Real-Time Tracking To Logistics."

  • [June 2000] "T2T: The Next Wave of The Internet Revolution." From 2000-06-02. "Imagine a world where your medicine cabinet reminds you to take your prescription medication, keeps track of when it needs to be refilled - or better yet, contacts the online pharmacy and places the refill order for you. Contemplate a refrigerator that automatically inventories its contents, generates a shopping list, and communicates to your TV what types of advertisements will interest your family. It may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but it's almost reality thanks to the Auto ID Center and its team of supporters including Proctor and Gamble, Gillette, the Uniform Code Council (UCC), International Paper, EAN International, CHEP, Philip Morris, Sun Microsystems, Motorola and NCR. The Auto ID technology is based on a concept Ashton calls 'T2T' which stands for 'thing-to-thing.' 'T2T is the next relationship beyond B2B - it's the next wave of the Internet revolution,' he said. Ashton points out that the traditional supply chain, which he refers to as the 'network of atoms,' is beginning to become linked to the Internet or, as he calls it, the 'network of bits.' But the links between the data network and the physical network almost always rely on a human component. Inevitably, this means the link is expensive, inefficient and error prone... In order to track 'things' and their data and associated actions, each individual item must have what the MIT group terms a 'license plate' or totally unique identifier. So the group has developed electromagnetic identification (EMID) and short-range scanner technology that takes the concept of the barcode to the next level. Using PML (physical markup language) encoded on electromagnetic chips, the Auto ID Center has developed a method to uniquely identify and track every individual unit of product produced in the world. But the technology doesn't stop with simply tracking items through the supply chain. EMID also facilitates applications such as soft sensing of product freshness. For example, the microchip attached to a carton of milk (or a pharmaceutical product) could sense and record temperature fluctuations experienced during shipment or storage and adjust the expiration date accordingly. Other applications of the technology for the pharmaceutical industry include optimized replenishment, easier stock rotation, faster/more automated bad batch recalls, faster movement of goods through the supply chain, compliance checking, drug interaction warnings, counterfeit protection and easier logistics for customized products..."

Hosted By
OASIS - Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards

Sponsored By

IBM Corporation
ISIS Papyrus
Microsoft Corporation
Oracle Corporation


XML Daily Newslink
Receive daily news updates from Managing Editor, Robin Cover.

 Newsletter Subscription
 Newsletter Archives
Globe Image

Document URI:  —  Legal stuff
Robin Cover, Editor: