Data synch or sink

How important is data synchronization to your radio-frequency identification program?

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Consultant Paula Giovannetti of EC Workshops, who has been on Uniform Code Council and EAN Intl. committees that determine bar-code standards, says it’s the foundation of successful RFID.

Giovannetti says that data synch really isn’t fancy. “It’s that you and I have to get the information straight between us. It’s simple, but it’s not that easy.”

Data synch involves two key attributes: party data, and item data. Party data is the entity involved, such as Gillette. Item data refers to identification of the item at the packaging level, whether that be primary pack, case, or pallet. For RFID, the item data is globally and uniquely identified with the Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN.

The goal of retailers like Wal-Mart and Target is a standard public domain with a global registry, also called a data pool.

The theory is that tapping the data pool yields the item number (GTIN) information, Giovannetti says. “We don’t have robust implementation of that yet—it looks good on the hanger, but we don’t know how it’s going to wear.”

Ultimately, the tie-in is between the GTIN and RFID. The idea is to marry the item data with the location data from the RFID environment over the Internet.

She emphasizes that packagers need to keep scalability in mind as they roll out their RFID programs. “Unfortunately, what I see happening is that people play with RFID and see that it is fun and that it works, but they don’t really build systems that can scale because it gets big—meaning lots of data to handle—real quick.

“The goal is to keep data in one place that’s current, timely, and correct,” Giovannetti insists. “In order to do that with RFID, it means automatically accessing the item information at a global registry via the Internet. The best way to do that is for all the trading partners to draw from the same pool containing the latest data. That way, we’re all synchronized—that’s what data synchronization is about.”

For further information and white papers, visit Giovannetti’s Web site, In the meantime, here’s how Dilbert® is coping with RFID.

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