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AII – tomorrow: Why do we need Object Name Server (ONS) ?

Object Name Server plays an important role in RFID scenarios…. at least that’s what articles from EPCglobal
(former Auto-ID Center) say. Why do we need ONS so badly? Let me first show you how this service works.
In a typical RFID scenario ONS translates Electronic Produt Codes (EPC) into one or more URLs where
all of the information about the product can be found. ONS is very similar to DNS and it will provide
a quite similar functionality but on a much larger scale.

Below you can find a schema of a typical ONS scenario.


When the reader reads the EPC from the product it is then transferred to the RFID middleware application.
Now the application knows the EPC code but it doesn’t know anything about the product yet.

1. Retailer’s application queries the ONS server with the EPC data to find out where it can find information about the product.

2. The ONS server responds and returns the URL pointing to the producers database.

3. The retailer’s application queries the given URL.

4. Database maintained by the producer returns all of the nessecsary data about the product.

Most applications can also have a local ONS server which will store the information of the once queried objects.
This local ONS can also server as a place where you can store your company EPC data (like assets for instance).
But can we live without the ONS ? Most of RFID applications today do. They send the EPC data directly inside
a delivery confirmation message. That might be good for now on but in a few years this will not be enough.
Why is ONS so much better than sending EPC data directly?

only one receiver – if you send EPC data to one receiver no one else can read the EPC data unless
the receiver resends the data and how can you know how produced the material if you only have it’s EPC?

message security – if the ONS gives the URLs to the producers database then the producer knows
who reads the data so he can restrict access to specific views (prices, etc.)

storage information – one of the most important because this gives the producer an actual information about
his products. Only with the ONS will he know exactly how many of his products reached to the store, how much was sold
and directly when… so now we’ll have Real Time Stock of shelves Information.
Also the information from where did the query come from might be very interesting…

Right now companies like VeriSign are working to prepare the ONS infrastructure for billions look-ups per day.
SAP AutoID Infrastructure 2.1 doesn’t use ONS yet but let’s hope in the near future it will, so that it won’t miss
this great opportunity of cooperating with the most frequently queried service on the world…

Further reference:

VeriSign to Run EPC Directory

EPCglobal Object Name Service (ONS) 1.0

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  • Hi Michal!

       Another fine blog; I hope you are finding time to sleep!

       One question – is this simialar to the UCCNet (I think they are called 1Sync now) framework?  It is was Wal Mart has embraced for data syncronization.  It provides us a global, standardized repository to put our product information out to one or many retailers with all the specification about our products.

       The only reason I ask is that it seems to meet what you are describing as needs…



    • Hi John:)

      Hi Michal!

      >>>Another fine blog;

      thanks 🙂 this is just na intro to RFID
      as a new subject here on SDN

      >>>One question – is this simialar to the UCCNet

      I’m not sure… isn’t this some sort of a catalogue? when I hear “syncronization”
      I imagine that someone will want to store the data… and this may not allow
      you to track your products…will it?

      the great thing about RFID is this tracking feature and if someone else is holding your data then you (as a producer) won’t know all this…

      but I’m not sure if this 1sync is a catalogue or not

      >>>I hope you are finding time to sleep!

      I’m finding a lot of time for many other things 🙂


      • Hi Michal!

           I suppose it could be considered both, but we are the ones storing the data, so it matches what we have in our system.  I think if I sleepily mentioned syncronization, all I meant was that the data on UCCNet is syncronized with our master data.

        SAP has proposed a solutions using MDM and GDS (Global Data Syncronization) that would communicate our master data to UCCNet so our retailers could access our product data.

           You would like it…It is heavy on XI!  🙂