Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


General Questions

Impact on Business

Impact on Consumers

Impact on Society




Answers


General Questions

Q: What Is RFID?
A: The commercial implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) is the use of an automated data carrier (RFID tag) to identify an item or product via radio waves. RFID offers many advantages over other automatic-identification (auto-ID) carriers, such as bar codes, as it is more enhanced and allows for a higher degree of automation.

Q: What Is an Electronic Product Code (EPC)?
A: An Electronic Product Code, or EPC, is an RFID-friendly encoding scheme that represents the same GS1 identifiers used with UPC bar codes, enhanced to identify a specific instance, or a type of trade item or asset. This standardized data structure provides the retail industry with a bridge between current auto-ID-based systems and newer, more efficient RFID-based processes. EPCs are supported by a suite of technical standards that are accepted and understood across industries and around the globe.

Q: Are There Alternatives to EPC-enabled RFID?
A: Yes. RFID offers many advantages over other auto-ID carriers, such as bar codes, as it is more enhanced and allow for a higher degree of automation. There are alternative methods of EPC identification (proprietary, in-house and so forth), but to have visibility from RFID, you must be able to uniquely identify, track and share data about the movements and locations of tagged items, and have that data understood by everyone in the supply chain. For that to happen requires standards enabling everyone to speak the same "language," so that they can share and understand things the same way.

Q: Why Choose RFID?
A: RFID readers can identify multiple items simultaneously—with a single pass, you can identify all items on a shelf or rack, as opposed to having to scan each one individually using bar codes. What's more, RFID does not require a direct line-of-sight between an item and a reader, which makes it convenient for identifying stacked, hanging and hard-to-reach items. RFID can encode not only stock-keeping unit (SKU) and GS1 numbers for compatibility with legacy systems, but also a unique serial number for each item, in order to support authentication and advanced inventory-management operations.

Q: Why EPC-enabled RFI? Why Use Standards-based RFID?
A: RFID is a powerful enabling technology—but by itself, it does not provide visibility. RFID has enhanced and more automated advantages over bar codes, but at its basic level, it is just another data carrier. To have visibility from RFID, you must be able to uniquely identify, track and share data about the movements and locations of tagged items, regardless of how that information is captured, and have the data understood by everyone in the supply chain. For that to occur, you need standards enabling everyone to speak, share and understand things the same way. The Electronic Product Code, or EPC, is an RFID-friendly encoding scheme that represents the same (GS1) identifiers used with UPC bar codes, enhanced to identify a specific instance, or a type of trade item or asset. This standardized data structure provides the apparel industry with a bridge between current auto-ID-based systems and newer, more efficient RFID-based processes. The EPC is supported by a suite of technical standards that are accepted and understood across industries and around the globe. EPC-enabled RFID offers apparel companies the technologies and standards they need to profitably introduce radio frequency identification into their operations.




Impact on Business

Q: How Much Will an Average Store Save By Using EPC RFID Tags?
A: Savings in dollar terms are specific to individual stores, based on current cost structures and business processes, but recent studies (conducted by the University of Arkansas, Bloomingdale's and Dillard's) have shown that when RFID is employed, cycle counting can be accomplished with 96 percent less time, as compared to bar-code scanning.

Q: Will EPC-enabled RFID Tagging Affect Product Quality? Will It Be
Easier to Track Products With Problems, or to Locate Dangerous Goods?

A: Yes, it will. Using serialized GTINs, which are carried by an EPC tag, you can trace an item back to its source. This makes it infinitely easier for retailers to pinpoint the origins of defective products, particularly in the case of recalls. EPC-enabled RFID can also be used to trace raw materials back to their source, ensuring that your materials are authentic.

Q: Will It Be Expensive for Industries and Retail Channels
to Adapt to Item-Level RFID?

A: The cost to deploy an RFID infrastructure (tags, readers and label printers) depends on the size and scale of a particular deployment, as well as on whether the organization is outsourcing all or part of the system, or handling it in-house. However, as with all emerging technologies, the cost for RFID products has come down significantly over the past several years. Depending on volume, tag cost can be as little as 5 cents per tag.




Impact on Consumers

Q: How Will Consumers Be Affected By Widespread
Item-Level RFID Adoption?

A: EPC-enabled RFID at the item level can help make shopping easier, through improved product availability, as well as faster service on the sales floor, at the check-out counter and for returns, and can also help ensure product quality. With the increased data accuracy provided by RFID, retailers can be sure that the correct products are available for customers to buy, when they want to purchase them.

Q: Will Prices Come Down If EPC-enabled RFID Leads
to Reduced Theft and More Efficient Recalls and Returns?

A: The efficiencies gained from RFID-enabled processes would lead to products being brought to market at a lower cost, which could mean savings that could then be passed on to consumers. Not only can RFID help ensure that customers receive the correct products at the proper time and at the right place, but it can also help get the items to them at the best price.

Q: Will It Be Easier to Return Goods If Item-Level
RFID Is Used on Products?

A: We're presently too early in the development stage to know exactly how the tags will be used for transactions such as returns, but there could be instances in which consumers may benefit from keeping the tags from their purchases, in case they wish to return those items, or for recalls, recycling or brand-authentication purposes

Q: Can EPC-enabled RFID Tags Be Used By Consumers for Theft
Protection? Could RFID Tags Be Used to Identify and Find Items?

A: No. While protection and counterfeit control will be a major benefit to retailers and manufacturers, tracking an item outside a store is not feasible. The range from which you could read a passive RFID application is limited, and an RFID tag only carries product information, which is not linked to a customer's personal information.




Impact on Society

Q: Will EPC-enabled RFID Tagging Improve Product Safety?
A: EPC-enabled RFID tagging can result in the quicker identification of recalled items, resulting in faster removal of recalled items from store shelves. In the future, consumers will be able to utilize mobile-phone RFID readers to check if the products they own have been recalled. There is also the potential to include expiration dates in EPC tags, which would make it faster and more efficient for stores to identify expired items, and to remove them. RFID tags can also be used to improve product safety, by identifying if a product is counterfeit.

Q: What Is the Workgroup's Position on Consumer
Privacy as It Relates to RFID?

A: We strongly believe in consumer privacy, which has been a focus since the earliest stages of the effort to commercialize RFID technology in the supply chain. (This effort began with a research project undertaken by an international group called the Auto-ID Center.) Consumer research has been conducted, and consumer policy guidelines have been created, as well as the formation of a cross-industry subcommittee to look into and address potential concerns. This group continues to work with the global community to develop technical and policy solutions that will ensure that the technology is deployed in a responsible way.

Q: What Are the Main Points of the Consumer Privacy Guidelines?
A: The guidelines state that:

  • Consumers will be given clear notice of the presence of EPC tags on products or packaging.
  • Consumers will be informed of the choices available to them, for discarding or removing EPC tags from the products they acquire.
  • Consumers will have the opportunity to obtain information about EPC and its applications, as well as advances in the technology.
  • Companies will publish, in compliance with all applicable laws, information about their policies regarding the retention, use and protection of any personally identifiable information associated with EPC use.

It's important to note that these guidelines will evolve as the technology evolves, in order to be sure that the community is addressing consumer concerns.

Q: Does the Technology Have the Ability to Track and Trace People?
A: Retail RFID tags contain only a number tied to product data in a secure database. They do not contain any personally identifiable information.

Q: Would Killing Tags at the Retail Level Solve Privacy Concerns?
A: Customers can easily remove and discard the tags if they do not want them. Mandating a kill function (that would deactivate a tag after a certain event or time) deprives consumers of choice. We're still very early in the development stage, and it would be unwise to impose such limitations. There could be instances in which consumers might choose to keep the tags, in case they wanted to return their purchased items, or for recycling purposes.

Q: Will Companies Be Able to Spy on Consumers? Could Businesses
Use the RFID Tags to Track How Consumers Use Products?

A: No, that would be impossible for several reasons. The range from which you could read a passive RFID tag would be limited, and the RFID tag only carries product information not linked to personal data. Moreover, the industry is seeking to deploy RFID to realize more efficient processes, and to pass those benefits onto customers in the form of cost savings and a better shopping experience.

Q: Could a Hacker Scan My Home Using a "Super Antenna" of
Some Sort, and Thus Find Out Things About Me That Are Private?

A: No. The read ranges for passive RFID, and the amount of interference in a typical home, would not permit that to happen. Power levels for RFID readers are strictly regulated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Q: How Can I, as a Consumer, Be Sure That EPC RFID
Tags Can't Be Abused?

A: It is not in the industry's best interest to employ any technology that could pose a risk to customers. We have made it clear that we are committed to protecting customer privacy. We provide notice whenever tags are used, and customers have the choice of removing them.




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