E-commerce body urges Canadian support for RFID

TORONTO — The head of the Electronic Commerce Council of Canada took government and industry to task for its lack of support of RFID standards Thursday, cautioning that this country is falling behind early adopters in the U.S. and around the world.

The ECCC also said it was changing its

name to GS1 Canada, but its CEO Arthur Smith said that the organization’s mission hasn’t changed: to help Canadian businesses adopt e-commerce standards.

Smith, who founded the ECCC in 1997, said that American retailers such as Wal-Mart and U.S. government bodies like the Department of Defense are pledging resources towards the development and deployment of RFID, but Canadian support is lacking.

“I’m worried that if we don’t get moving quickly, we’re not going to have the same infrastructure,” he said.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is an emerging technology that is capable of storing more information than bar codes and is being heralded by groups like GS1 Canada as a means to improve efficiency and plug holes in the supply chain that can lead to lost goods and counterfeiting. The technology is being adopted by retailers like Wal-Mart, but also has implications other industries like health care, where the safety and authenticity of medical supplies is of prime importance.

“The Canadian government doesn’t have a position (on RFID),” said Smith. “We’re being left behind by the lack of industry initiative.”

He called for “broad-based support” for Canadian businesses, agriculture and health care, and said that federal and provincial governments should be more accepting of technology built on open standards. “How can we be in a global economy when we’re protecting proprietary solutions?” he said.

Canada may be in danger of falling behind, but has taken some steps towards using RFID, particularly in agriculture. The Can-Trace initiative, for example, is helping to provide a framework to track the origin of and current location of food items along the supply chain.

Smith said that GS1 Canada will continue to push for standards and plans to open an RFID resource centre in September to help Canadian businesses get up to speed on the technology.

As part of its name change from ECCC to GS1 Canada, the organization officially became part of a global GS1 body which represents member organizations in more than 100 countries.

Timothy Smucker, the chairman of GS1 and Co-CEO of the J.M. Smucker Co., was on hand Thursday to welcome the Canadian arm into the global organization.

“GS1’s mission has always been to lead the design and implementation of global standards and to improve supply chain efficiency and provide visibility,” he said. “Each GS1 member organization has demonstrated its mission to one global language of business and Canada is no exception.”

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