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GS1 abbreviations explained
Understand supply chain terms and jargon


Agile reader

A generic term that usually refers to an RFID reader that can read tags operating at different frequencies or using different methods of communication between the tags and readers.


Automated Goods Receipt Automating the communication of which goods are about to arrive, resolving delivery and receiving errors and reconciling deliveries against orders and invoices 


Application Identifier - A 2, 3 or 4-digit number used to identify specific information such as batch numbers, sell by dates, price, expiry date and weight. An AI comes after a GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, and GS1 DataMatrix bar code. 


Automatic Identification and Data Capture - The ability to use unique numbers, and other sets of standardised data, shown in bar codes or other data carriers to identify different items automatically, without any human intervention.


The maximum height of a radio wave

Analog data

Information that is represented by continuously changing physical quantity, such as length or height of an electromagnetic wave


A device for sending or receiving electromagnetic waves


A technique used to prevent several tags in the field of a single reader, or readers with overlapping fields, from interfering with one another. Anti-collision algorithms typically work by ensuring that the tags or readers don’t transmit at the same time.

Automatic data capture (ADC)

Methods of collecting data and entering it directly into computer systems without human involvement (see also automatic identification and data collection).

Automatic identification and data collection (AIDC)

A broad term that covers methods of entering data directly into a computer system without using a keyboard. These include barcode scanning, radio frequency identification, voice recognition and other technologies.


Advanced Shipping Notice An electronic delivery note used in conjunction with a SSCC



Radio signals interfering with one another. Signals from tags or readers can collide


Coupling are two methods used to transfer energy between a reader and a tag



Composite Bar Code Symbol. A bar code symbol that encodes an GTIN-14 Identification Number plus supplementary AI Element Strings, such as weight and “best before” date, in a linear symbol that can be scanned omnidirectionally by suitably programmed Point-of-Sale scanners. Can be stacked in multiple rows


 A tiny square of silicon with an integrated circuit etched on it (more commonly known as a silicon chip)

Discovery Services

A component of the EPCglobal Architecture Framework consisting of a suite of services that enable users to find data held by individual companies related to a specific Electronic Product Code. Object Naming Service is one component of Discovery Services

Distributed architecture

Software that runs simultaneously on different computers distributed throughout an organization, rather than on one central computer

Domain Name Service

A service used on the Internet to help the network route information to the correct computers

Dynamic data

Data that can change constantly, such as the temperature of an item.



European Article Number


The most commonly used bar code symbol that represents a 13-digit number.


A smaller bar code symbol that is used on small products or on many retailers’ own-label items. It represents an 8-digit number.


Is the GS1 term for EDI. 3 ecom standards - GS1 EANCOM and GS1 XML and TRADACOMS (no longer developed in the UK)


Electronic Data Interchange The computer-to-computer exchange of standard business documents in electronic format between two companies

Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM)

A type of electronic memory that retains its contents even when the power is cut off and which can be reprogrammed.

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)

The ability of a system or product to function properly in an environment where other electromagnetic devices are used and not be a source itself of electromagnetic interference.

Electromagnetic ID (EMID) tag

A memory device with circuitry for communicating wirelessly with an external tag reader. An RFID tag is one type of electromagnetic ID tag.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI)

The effect one wireless systems or product has on neighboring systems or products.

Electromagnetic spectrum

The entire frequency range of electromagnetic waves

Electromagnetic waves

Energy that is emitted in the form of waves. Types of electromagnetic waves include radio waves, gamma rays and x-rays.

Electronic article surveillance (EAS)

Simple electronic tags that are either “on” or “off”. When an item is purchased or borrowed legally, the tag is turned off. When someone passes a gate area holding an item with a tag that hasn’t been turned off, an alarm sounds.


Electronic Product Code A globally unique serial number which resides in an RFID tag that identifies the individual item to which it is attached such as an item, case or roll cage. This enables enquiries to be made about the item wherever it is within the supply chain

EPC Information Service (EPCIS)

Part of the EPC Network.The EPC Information Service is a network infrastructure that enables companies to store data associated with EPCs in secure databases on the Web. The EPC Information Service will enable companies to provide different levels of access to data to different groups. Some information associated with an EPC might be available to everyone. Other information might be available only to a manufacturer's retail customers. The service also includes a number of applications, such as the EPC Discovery Service.

EPC Manager Number

A unique number issued to an end user that enables the end user to create globally unique electronic product codes.


A subscriber-driven organisation, comprised of industry leaders and organisations focused on leading the development of member driven standards to support the use of RFID in today’s trading networks.

Extensible markup language (XML)

A widely accepted way of sharing information over the Internet in a way that computers can use, regardless of their operating system


Fluidic Self-Assembly

A manufacturing process, patented by Alien Technology, that involves flowing tiny microchips in a special fluid over a base with holes shaped to catch the chips.


The number of repetitions of a complete waveform in a specific period of time. 1 KHz equals 1,000 complete waveforms in one second. 1 MHz equals 1 million waveforms per second.

Frequency Shift Keying (FSK)

A method of switching between different frequencies to transmit digital data. Often, one frequency represents a one, the other a zero.



Global Data Synchronisation Enables product information from a supplier, to be made available to a retailer, using a standardised process. The information is defined using agreed standards which all parties can understand and can include, for example, product description, price, size, pack, name, address and the quantity of items in a purchase order


Global Data Synchronisation Network The network which allows information on products held in data pools to be accessed by trading partners – a data pool must be GDSN sertified to be part of GDSN


Global Document Type Identifier


Global Electronic Party Information Register A distributed database that contains basic information on over 1,000,000 companies in over 100 countries.You can search by GTIN (includes UPC and EAN-13), SSCC and GLN numbers or by company name in some countries


The EPCglobal Class-1 Generation-2 UHF RFID Protocol for Communications at 860 MHz – 960 MHz


Global Individual Asset Identifier - The GS1 identification key used to identify any asset that needs to be tracked for maintenance, repair and ownership purposes.


Global Location Number - The GS1 identification key used to identify companies and locations. It’s mainly used to replace plain language descriptions within EDI messages


Global Returnable Asset Identifier - The GS1 identification key used to identify returnable packaging and transport equipment. Examples of this equipment include pallets, roll cages, and plastic crates


A special version of Code 128 that is used only to represent GS1-defined identifiers and attribute information.


Global Standards Management Process The way that GS1 develops and maintains its standards. It is an open and collaborative process in which user companies express their business needs and work with professional GS1 staff from around the world to develop standards to meet those needs


Global Service Relation Number - The GS1 identification key used to identify an individual who receives services from a particular organisation. For example, all individuals entitled to receive care from the National Health Service are identified with a GSRN that stays the same throughout their lifetime


Global Trade Item Number - The GS1 identification key used to identify any product line or service that may be ordered, priced or invoiced at any point in the supply chain. GTINs may be 8, 12, 13 or 14-digit numbers.


The 12-digit GTIN composed of a UPC Company Prefix, Item Reference, and Check Digit.


The 14-digit GTIN composed of an indicator digit, GS1 Company Prefix, Item Reference, and Check Digit.


The 8-digit GTIN composed of a GS1-8 Prefix, Item Reference, and Check Digit.


High-frequency tags

Tags operating in the 13.56 MHz range

Holonic Manufacturing System (HMS)

A method for manufacturing goods based on the cooperation of autonomous, functionally complete entities with diverse and often conflicting goals. Holonic manufacturing is still in the early stages of development, but can be greatly enhanced by RFID technology


Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) bands

A group of unlicensed frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. It isn’t necessary to buy a license from the government before using communications equipment that operates at an ISM band frequency

Integrated circuit (IC)

This is another name for a chip or microchip. ICs make up the brains of computers

Internet Protocol (IP)

The network layer for the TCP/IP protocol suite widely used on Ethernet networks. It routes packets of data among computers connected to a network.


An RFID reader.


The bar code symbol often used on outer cases to represent GTIN-12s, GTIN-13s or GTIN-14s. The bar code cannot carry any extra information about the product.


Line-of-sight technology

Technology that requires an item to be “seen?to be automatically identified by a machine. Bar codes and optical character recognition are two line-of-site sight technologies

Logic gate

Tiny switches on microchip circuits that enable the chip to perform certain operations.

Low-frequency tags

RFID tags that communicate with readers at 125 KHz



A microelectronic semiconductor device comprising many interconnected transistors and other components. Also called a chip or an “integrated circuit”


A unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter or one thousandth of a millimeter.


Changing the frequency, phase or amplitude of a wave to transmit data

Multiple access schemes

Methods of allowing several radio transmitters to operate simultaneously within the same frequency spectrum.



The term Alien Technology uses to describe its tiny microchips, which are about the width of three human hairs


Object Name Service (ONS)

An Auto-ID Center designed system for looking up unique Electronic Product Codes and pointing computers to information about the item associated with the code. ONS is similar to the Domain Name System, which points computers to sites on the Internet.



Point of Sale - Refers to the retail type checkout where only EAN/UPC bar code symbols are normally scanned.

Passive tag

An RFID tag that does not use a battery. The tag draws energy from an electromagnetic field created by the reader.

Phase Shift Keying (PSK)

A method of communicating information by switching transmission between different phases of the waveform to represent digital data

Physical Markup Language (PML)

An Auto-ID Center designed method of describing products in a way computers can understand. PML is based on the widely accepted eXtensible Markup Language used to share data over the Internet in a format all computers can use.

PML Server

A dedicated computer that will respond to requests for Physical Markup Language (PML) files related to individual Electronic Product Codes. The manufacturer of the item may maintain the PML files and server.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A method of identifying unique items using radio waves. The big advantage over bar code technology is lasers must see a bar code to read it. Radio waves do not require line of site and can pass through materials such as cardboard and plastic.

Radio waves

Electromagnetic waves that fall within the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Read range

The distance from which a reader can communicate with a tag. Range is influenced by the power of the reader, frequency used for communication, and the design of the antenna.

Read-only memory (ROM)

A form of storing information on a chip that cannot be overwritten. Read-only chips are less expensive than read-write chips.


The ability to read and overwrite stored information. Chips for read-write RFID tags are more expensive than equivalent read-only chips.


Also called an interrogator. The reader communicates with the RFID tag and passes the information in digital form to a computer system.

Reader collision

A problem that occurs when signals from readers with overlapping fields interfere with one another.

Real-time In-memory Event Database (RIED)

A method of storing frequently used data so it can be made available quickly



Serial Shipping Container Code - The GS1 identification key for a logistics unit, such as a pallet of goods. It is a serial number which means that every logistics unit is identified uniquely.

Semi-passive tags

RFID tags that use a battery to run the chip’s circuitry, but communicate by drawing power from the reader.

Smart cards

A broad term used for a plastic card (usually the size of a credit card) with an embedded microchip. Some smart cards contain an RFID chip so they can identify the holder without requiring any physical contact with a reader. RFID smart cards are often called “contactless” smart cards

Static data

Data that doesn’t change, such as facts relating to the material composition of a product.

Synthetic polymers

Man-made compounds that make up plastic-like materials. Special types of synthetic polymers may one day offer an inexpensive replacement to silicon in microchips



The generic term for a radio frequency identification device. Tags are sometimes referred to as smart labels.

Tag collision

Interference caused when more than one RFID tag sends back a signal to the read at the same time.

Task management system

A method of organizing and customizing software to execute a set of tasks automatically.

Temporal data

Data that changes discretely and intermittently throughout an object’s life, such as its location.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

An open, international group of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architec

Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)

A method of solving the problem of the signals of two readers colliding. Algorithms are used to make sure the readers attempt to read tags at different times.

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

A set of formal communications rules developed to internetwork dissimilar types of computers. TCP is the connection-oriented protocol built on top of Internet Protocol (IP) and is nearly always seen in the combination TCP/IP. It adds reliable communication and flow-control. TCP/IP has become the de facto standard for communicating over the Internet.


A radio transmitter-receiver that is activated when it receives a predetermined signal. RFID tags are sometimes referred to as transponders.


Ultra-high frequency (UHF)

The term generally given to waves in the 300 MHz to 3 GHz. UHF offers high bandwidth and good range, but UHF waves don’t penetrate materials well and require more power to be transmitted over a given range than lower frequency waves.


Unique Product Code


A bar code that represents GTIN-12s, and which was first used in North America. The symbol can be used anywhere worldwide.


A special version of the UPC-A bar code that appears to represent 8-digits, but actually represents 12-digits. The scanner replaces missing zeroes in the number automatically.

Unified Modeling Language (UML)

An open, standard method of modeling large, complex computer systems

User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

A set of communications rules that govern the transmission of data over a network. UDP doesn’t require a connection or guarantee the delivery of data, so all error processing and retransmission must be taken care of by the application program



A small thin circular slice of a semiconducting material, such as pure silicon, on which an integrated circuit can be formed. Silicon wafers are usually eight to 12 inches in diameter.


XML Query Language (XQL)

A method of querying a database based on XML. Files created using the Auto-ID Center’s Physical Markup Language can be searched using XQL