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GS1 UK announced the launch of the EPCglobal RFID Test Centre on November 15th 2007. This makes the fifth RFID Centre to my knowledge that we have in the UK. The first centre was set up by Sun Microsystems and was attached to the factory in Livingstone, Scotland. Then we had The RFID Centre at Bracknell, sponsored by the DTI, Microsoft, Cisco, Cable & Wireless, Cranfield University and Building Research Establishment (BRE). The National RFID Centre was established late in 2004 with support funding from the Department of Trade & Industry, Yorkshire Forward (the Regional Development Agency for Yorkshire and Humberside), and AIM UK (representing suppliers of RFID and other automatic identification data capture technology equipment). AIM was also contracted by the DTI to set up RFID Centres in Regional Development Agency in England. The fourth Centre I know of, was launched this summer in Newham – some of you may read the article I wrote on July 30th (New RFID Centre launched in Olympic heartland). So why do we need a fifth and particularly one run by GS1?
Why do I sound so sceptical of this? Well it is all down to what GS1 is. The definition of GS1 on Wikipedia, says “GS1 is a global not for profit organization dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across multiple sectors. Its main activity is the development of the GS1 System, a series of standards designed to improve supply chain management. The GS1 System is composed of four key product areas: Barcodes, eCom, GDSN Network and EPCglobal (which uses RFID technology to immediately track an item)”. I don’t see how this centre benefits the UK when run by GS1. I am not convinced that it is the interest of the industry to have a Centre run by GS1 when we already have 4 Centres in the UK and more being developed by AIM for Regional development Agencies. If it was part of this programme then I would remove most of my objections.
So what about this new Centre. It is being hosted by Intellident in Winsford, Cheshire. Its team of experts include advisors from GS1 UK, EPCglobal and systems integrators (tried to look on the GS1 UK site to see who these SIs were – nothing there!!!). One of the differences to this Centre is that it can be used by organisations to test how the technology works on their own products and assets and in environments similar to their own. This like the Sun Microsystems Centre and many of the vendor Centres of excellence in the US (eg. Microsoft at Redmond). I love one of the statements in the press release – talk about tautology – “The vendor-independent facility provides a hands-on approach to its users, combining the independence and industry knowledge of established standards body, GS1 UK, with the RFID implementation experience of Intellident.” Intellident’s involvement means that it can’t be that vendor neutral.
Sorry GS1 I don’t see the benefit – convince me; there’s your challenge.