In computer science, Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) is a global GS1 Standard for creating and sharing visibility event data, both within and across enterprises, to enable users to gain a shared view of physical or digital objects within a relevant business context. "Objects" in the context of EPCIS typically refers to physical objects that are handled in physical steps of an overall business process involving one or more organizations. Examples of such physical objects include trade items (products), logistic units, returnable assets, fixed assets, physical documents, etc. “Objects” may also refer to digital objects which participate in comparable business process steps. Examples of such digital objects include digital trade items (music downloads, electronic books, etc.), digital documents (electronic coupons, etc.), and so forth.
The EPCIS standard was originally conceived as part of a broader effort to enhance collaboration between trading partners by sharing of detailed information about physical or digital objects. The name EPCIS reflects the origins of this effort in the development of the Electronic Product Code (EPC). However, EPCIS does not require the use of Electronic Product Codes, nor of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) data carriers, and as of EPCIS 1.1 does not even require instance-level identification (for which the Electronic Product Code was originally designed). The EPCIS standard applies to all situations in which visibility event data is to be captured and shared, and the presence of “EPC” within the name is of historical significance only.
EPCIS 1.0 was first ratified by EPCglobal in April, 2007. At the time of ratification, over 30 companies had used the draft EPCIS standard to exchange data and collaborate with trading partners As of 2014, 24 commercial products had received certificates of compliance to the EPCIS standard from GS1. EPCIS 1.1 was ratified by GS1 in May, 2014. EPCIS 1.2 was ratified by GS1 (in conjunction with CBV 1.2) in September, 2016.
In 2001, the MIT Auto-ID Center published a paper proposing the Physical Markup Language (PML), intended as "a common 'language' for describing physical objects, processes and environments". PML was one of four components of an "intelligent infrastructure" envisioned by the Auto-ID Center, the other three components being RFID tags, the Electronic Product Code, and the Object Naming Service. As the work of the MIT Auto-ID Center was taken up by EPCglobal in 2004, the PML concept was renamed Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS), and efforts began to create a global standard. In 2005, the first version of the EPCglobal Architecture Framework was published, which introduced EPCIS as a standard under development and showed how it related to other components of an envisioned architecture for RFID-based tracking of physical objects within supply chains.
EPCIS 1.0 was first ratified by EPCglobal in April, 2007. A companion standard, the EPC Core Business Vocabulary 1.0, was ratified by EPCglobal in October, 2010. Despite the RFID-oriented origins of EPCIS, it came to be used in applications that used bar codes exclusively or bar codes in combination with RFID tags.
EPCIS 1.1 and CBV 1.1 were ratified by GS1 in May, 2014. New features in EPCIS 1.1 include support for class-level identification (needed especially in bar code applications), a new event type to describe processes where inputs are transformed into outputs, and additional event data to describe business transfers and instance- or lot-level master data.
EPCIS 1.2 and CBV 1.2 were ratified by GS1 in September, 2016. New features include a mechanism to declare a previous event as being erroneous, and a mechanism for including master data into the EPCIS document header.
EPCIS fits into an overall architecture based on GS1 Standards designed to support information needs related to real-world entities in supply chain business processes. GS1 Standards include:
- Standards which provide the means to Identify real-world entities so that they may be the subject of electronic information that is stored and/or communicated by end users. GS1 identification standards include standards that define unique identification codes (called GS1 Identification Keys), such as the Global Trade Item Number.
- Standards which provide the means to automatically Capture data that is carried directly on physical objects, bridging the world of physical things and the world of electronic information. GS1 data capture standards include definitions of bar code and radio-frequency identification (RFID) data carriers which allow identifiers to be affixed directly to a physical object, and standards that specify consistent interfaces to readers, printers, and other hardware and software components that connect the data carriers to business applications.
- Standards which provide the means to Share information, both between trading partners and internally, providing the foundation for electronic business transactions, electronic visibility of the physical or digital world, and other information applications. GS1 standards for information sharing include this EPCIS Standard which is a standard for visibility event data. Other standards in the “Share” group are standards for master data and for business transaction data, as well as discovery standards that help locate where relevant data resides across a supply chain and trust standards that help establish the conditions for sharing data with adequate security.
A key principle of EPCIS is that unlike raw data captured from data carriers such as bar codes and RFID tags, EPCIS events include additional information that imbues the raw observations with meaning relative to the physical or digital world and to specific steps in operational or analytical business processes. An EPCIS event, while containing much of the same data as an RFID tag read or a bar code scan, is at a semantically higher level because it incorporates an understanding of the business context in which the identifier data were obtained. Moreover, there is no requirement that an EPCIS event be directly related to a specific physical data carrier observation. For example, an EPCIS event may indicate that a perishable trade item has just crossed its expiration date; such an event may be generated purely by software.
The EPCIS standard includes these parts:
- A Data Definition Layer that defines a standard model for visibility events.
- A Service Layer that defines two standard interfaces:
- The EPCIS Capture Interface by which EPCIS data may be delivered from a capturing application to an EPCIS repository or other system capable of receiving EPCIS data. Often the capturing application is interacting with the physical world through scanning bar codes or reading RFID tags.
- The EPCIS Query Interface by which EPCIS Accessing Applications and trading partners may obtain EPCIS data subsequent to capture, typically by interacting with an EPCIS Repository.
EPCIS is intended to be used in conjunction with the GS1 Core Business Vocabulary (CBV) standard. The CBV standard provides definitions of data values that may be used to populate the data structures defined in the EPCIS standard.
EPCIS Data Model
The basic unit of data in EPCIS is a structure that describes the completion of one business step within an overall business process; this structure is called an EPCIS event. A collection of EPCIS events provides a detailed picture of a business process over time and place. The information content of a single EPCIS event is organized into four dimensions:
- The identifiers of the object(s) or other entities that are the subject of the event
- The date and time when the event took place, and the local time zone in effect
- The identifier of the location at which the event occurred, and identifier of the location where the object(s) are expected to be following the event
- Information about the business context, including: a identifier that indicates the business step taking place (e.g., shipping, receiving, etc.), an identifier that indicates the business state of the object(s) following the event (e.g., active, recalled, damaged, etc.), identifiers of the shipping and receiving parties (if the event is part of a process of transfer between parties), links to relevant business transaction documents (e.g., a purchase order, an invoice, etc.), instance- or lot-level master data, and/or other information defined via user extensions.
Where the EPCIS data model calls for an identifier, EPCIS allows any URI to be used. Most commonly, the identifiers used are as defined in the EPC Core Business Vocabulary.
Each of the business steps in the process illustrated in the figure could be the source of an EPCIS event. The details of the content of each of those events are different depending on the business step, but all have the same four-dimensional structure.
EPCIS Event Types
All EPCIS events have the four-dimensional information content of what, where, when, and why. The EPCIS standard defines five different event types to allow for variations in the structure of the what dimension and associated variations in the semantics of the event.
EPCIS Capture Interface
The EPCIS Capture Interface provides a means for EPCIS data to be delivered from a capturing application to an EPCIS repository or other system capable of receiving EPCIS data. Often the capturing application is interacting with the physical world through scanning bar codes or reading RFID tags. The EPCIS Capture Interface specifies the delivery of an "EPCIS Document" containing one or more EPCIS events, using an XML format for EPCIS events defined by an XML schema provided in the standard. The EPCIS Standard provides bindings of the EPCIS Capture Interface that use either a message queue or HTTP.
EPCIS Query Interface
The EPCIS Query Interface provides a means by which EPCIS Accessing Applications and trading partners may obtain EPCIS data subsequent to capture, typically by interacting with an EPCIS Repository. The Query Interface is defined as a web service supporting the following operations:
|Query Interface Operation||Description|
|poll||Queries for EPCIS events matching specified criteria, immediately returning the results.|
|subscribe||Register a standing query for EPCIS events matching specified criteria. New events matching the query criteria are sent asynchronously to the subscriber on a specified schedule.|
|unsubscribe||Remove a previously registered subscription.|
|getSubscriptionIDs||Return a list of active subscriptions.|
|getQueryNames||Return a list of the types of queries supported by the service.|
|getStandardVersion||Return the version number of the EPCIS standard supported by the service (e.g., "1.2").|
|getVendorVersion||Return a vendor-defined string identifying any non-standard extensions supported by the service.|
Commercial software products may be certified by GS1 as compliant to the EPCIS standard. Products may be certified as conforming to the EPCIS Capture Interface, the EPCIS Query Interface, or both. As of 2014, 24 commercial products had received certification. Among these is one open-source implementation, FossTrak.
- EPCIS 1.2, p. 9
- EPCglobal was formed as a joint venture of the Uniform Code Council (UCC) and the European Article Numbering association (EAN) in 2003. When UCC and EAN merged to form GS1 in 2005, the activities of EPCglobal were merged into GS1. Today, all EPCglobal standards are published as GS1 standards, and the EPCglobal name has only historical and marketing significance.
- Roberti, Mark, "The EPCIS Standard in Perspective," RFID Journal, April 2007.
- Meranda, Mike, "The Ratification of EPCIS," RFID Journal, April 2007.
- GS1, EPCglobal Software Certification Program, retrieved 26 October 2014.
- Beth Bacheldor, RFID News Roundup, RFID Journal, 29 May 2014.
- Brock, D. L., "The Physical Markup Language: A Universal Language for Physical Objects," MIT Auto-ID Center Whitepaper MIT-AUTOID-WH-003, February, 2001.
- Traub, K., et al, The EPCglobal Architecture Framework, July, 2005.
- EPCglobal, "Core Business Vocabulary Standard," EPCglobal Standard, October, 2010.
- GS1, "RFID Bar Code Interoperability," GS1 Guideline, August, 2012.
- EPCIS 1.1, p. 3
- EPCIS 1.2, p. 4
- EPCIS 1.2, p. 10.
- EPCIS 1.2, p. 12.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 8.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 8.1.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 8.2.
- EPCIS 1.2, p. 30.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.2.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.3.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.6.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.5.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 7.4.4.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 9.5
- EPCIS 1.2., Section 10.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 8.2.5.
- EPCIS 1.2, Section 12.
- EPCIS 1.2, GS1, "EPC Information Services (EPCIS) Version 1.1 Specification," GS1 Standard, Version 1.2, September 2016.
- EPCIS and EPC Core Business Vocabulary standard page at GS1
- Visibility Data Workbench, a free interactive tool for encoding and decoding EPCIS data and interacting with EPCIS repositories