“EPC (Electronic Product Code) is the future of item-level product identification that is prevalent in the form of UPC-12 barcodes. It is a 96-bit identification no. that is used to encode RFID tags attached to trade items worldwide.”
This digital era has changed the functionality and management of a product. Technologies are offering different services related to a product, such as identification and the location of products. An Electronic Product Code (EPC) is a unique identifier assigned to physical objects, unit loads, locations, or other identifiable entities that are improving the business operations from possible threats.
Each tagged product contains information about the product manufacturing, batch details, and destination of the product. In its supply chain journey, RFID readers and sensors are placed in various places in this journey, such as warehouses, storage facilities, and distribution centers. These readers and sensors retrieve product data, providing real-time data on product location, state, and status.
The EPC stands for Electronic Product Code, it is a standard of identification of the product details. The EPC technology was developed by the EPC global consortium. It is an RFID technology and aims to improve the efficiency and transparency in the supply chain of products.
EPC is a 96-bit numbering scheme that works through RFID labels and readers. RFID tags contain a microchip and antenna that can store and transmit the EPC information attached to the product.
The EPC is a series of digit structures that have several main sections.
1- Header: It is the first segment of the EPC, and it defines the type of EPC code structure. It provides information about the encoding scheme and the length of the EPC. It is an 8-digit number that contains the total EPC length, type, structure, version, and partitioning scheme.
2- EPC Manager: The code identifies the manufacturer details of the product. The EPC manager is assigned by GS-1, which is responsible for the product identification system worldwide. It is a 28-bit number that indicates manufacturing detail.
3- Object Class: A 24-digit number that identifies the type of product.
4- Serial Numbers: It is a 36-digit number that is assigned to each product or object.
One of the important points to remember is that EPC encoding schemes may vary in their structure and the amount of information they carry. Some EPC encodings may contain “Object Class” sections to provide more detailed information about a product. However, Header, EPC manager, and Serial numbers are present in every EPC encoding, and they are the fundamental section of encodings that show the uniqueness and global identification of products.
EPC: Future Trends and Applications
EPC technology will play a significant role in the future. It can completely change the shape of supply chain management, inventory management, and tracking of products which is currently done using barcoding technology and UPC.
Some future trends and applications of EPC are as follows:
1. IoT integration in EPC
2. Smart retail
3. EPC in agriculture
4. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals
5. EPC in Defense
6. Waste Management
7. Enhanced Customer Experiences
8. New Tags and Sensors
1. IoT in EPC: Integration of EPC and IoT will enable the real-time tracking and monitoring of assets. IoT can provide real-time information on the environment to maintain a record of assets. It provides a precise location of the product to track them. It can share some alerts of any important moment that happens in the environment.
2. Smart Shops: Implementing EPC technology will benefit both retailers and consumers. Retailers can monitor the inventory level in real time and fulfill the need for inventory. It will help retailers maintain the ratio of demand and supply and prevent the retailers from issues of theft and fraud as well.
3. EPC in Agriculture: It can be implemented in the agriculture sector to track the overall process of farming, which starts with maintaining a record of production and the distribution of crops. It will help in improving food safety and the tracking of livestock.
4. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: EPC technology will work as a tracking system of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. It will ensure the authenticity of medical products and maintain all the records of manufacturing details (expiry, manufacturing date, etc.). It will help the sector to enhance the patient's safety and reduce the chances of errors.
5. EPC in Defense: Authorities like defense need EPC technology, which will help to tackle many problems like armory management. It will provide insight into their supply and logistics. It will also help in the identity verification process to secure themselves from identity theft issues.
6. EPC in Waste Management: EPC technology can be applied to the monitoring and cause of wastage, collaborating it with environmental rules and regulations. It will provide the location to track and other details which can be helpful to recycle the waste or other techniques of waste management.
7. Enhancing the Customer Experiences: EPC will enable improvements in the experience of customers. They can use their smartphones to access details about the product, reviews by other consumers, and recommendations of products based on their preferences and history of purchase.
8. Innovation of new Tags and Sensors: Advancements in RFID and sensor technology will lead to having more durable and smaller tags and sensors. It will become a popular and common technology among consumers. It makes the cost of these tags cheaper. Further, these tags will expand the range of objects it can be tagged.
Ultimately, the future trends and applications of EPC promise an improvement in efficiency, transparency toward consumers, and innovation in various departments. It will help different industries to focus on creating solutions to possible challenges. By innovating new ways to interact with objects and logistics in this world. It will always focus on expanding supply chain management, enhancing customer experiences, and sustainable development.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Who invented EPC (Electronic Product Code)?
EPC is an electronic numbering scheme, just like the UPC, developed by MIT AutoID-Centre researchers namely Sanjay Sarma, David L. Brock, Daniel Engels, Kevin Ashton, and Sunny Siu amongst others.
Q2. How does EPC technology work?
The EPC is a 96-bit electronic product code, a series of numbers and letters, consisting of a header and three sections of data partitions. EPC as an identification scheme is used to encode RFID tags that are attached to various trade objects, just as UPC.
After separating the data into partitions, RFID readers can search for the items that have a particular product code. An RFID reader can be programmed to search EPC code with the same manufacturer code or product code, which have unique numbers in a sequence. For example, to quickly find a product that is nearer to its expiry date or that needs to be recalled into the inventory.
Q3. Why is EPC technology important?
EPC technology helps improve the efficiency of supply chain management. The vision of EPC technology is to create nearly a perfect supply chain with the ability to track every item anywhere in real time. RFID technology can reduce the chances of human errors. Instead of entering the wrong information into the database. One can just use RFID technology, which helps goods to communicate directly with the inventory management systems. Coupled with RFID, EPC provides item-level identification and tracking worldwide.
- Last updated on Oct 05, 2023