IEEE CRFID and RAIN Alliance


Resolving the Internet of *Every* Thing

Design a web resolver that connects physical things to their digital twins in the cloud, enabling people to securely access their twins.

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed



The Opportunity

Every day, more and more physical items--including apparel, pharmaceuticals, packages, automotive parts, and even golf balls--are connected to the Internet by digital identifiers enabled by technologies like RAIN RFID. The digital identifier is a universally unique number that acts like an address to that item’s digital twin, linking the physical item to the digital world. 

From retailers gaining visibility into their inventory, to airlines tracking travelers’ luggage, to warehouses ensuring the authenticity of their shipments, businesses around the world are gaining value from real-time visibility into the items they manufacture, transport, or sell. In the future we expect more people, including consumers, to engage a connected thing from its point of manufacture, across the supply chain, and ultimately to their home. 

To realize this future, we must deliver a web resolver that links the unique digital identifier associated with the physical item to its digital twin in the cloud. The digital twin  includes more information about the item including its history and ownership. A visionary example of what we’d like to achieve with the Internet of Things (IoT) is the Internet itself. IEEE CRFID and the RAIN Alliance are seeking innovative ideas for a web resolver to enable the next era of digital item ownership.


The Problem 

Today’s IoT is comprised of many disconnected intranets of things, where individual companies or industries can look up their own items, but related parties or consumers cannot access the digital twins for items they own. This may be because companies are connecting their items primarily for short-term business goals and are not yet tackling the long-term potential and complexity of information-sharing and interactions with their supply chain or consumers. 


There is also a growing mix of unique identifier numbering systems, which makes it difficult to know the specific intranet where the digital twin resides. Examples of today’s numbering systems include GS1 SGTIN used for retail, ISO IATA used for airline baggage, and vendor-defined, or proprietary, systems used for custom, or “closed-loop,” systems which typically deliver value to a single user and application (see “Resources” under the FAQ tab for more information on numbering systems). Additional numbering systems are created because companies may be unaware of existing standardized numbering systems or find these standards too complex to encode properly or too restrictive compared to the data they’d prefer to encode on their limited-memory RAIN RFID tags. This means that it can be difficult for anyone reading a RAIN RFID tag, such as a consumer wishing to learn more about their items, to know which intranet contains the item’s information. In addition, other IoT technologies have their own digital identifiers which makes it difficult to link together item data from these complimentary systems.


Resolver Pain Points

Today’s RAIN RFID number resolution methods do not universally resolve the item identifier stored on a RAIN RFID tag, which has limited memory (typically around 96 or 128 bits). The variety of numbering systems used to encode the unique identifier on a RAIN RFID tag makes it difficult to know where to go to decode the data. Even if you are able to identify the data owner, the resolver and/or the intranet to which it points is typically a private service that does not allow access to the digital twin, let alone the transfer of its ownership throughout the item lifecycle. Each item owner may want to define and share item information differently-- for example, the manufacturer may want to track the batch in which the item was produced and share this information with supply chain partners; whereas the consumer may want to store how much the item cost but not share this information with anyone. Further, a persistent unique-identifier attached to an item can be considered personally-identifiable information, meaning that the identifier needs to be protected for privacy.


Example Resolvers

The modern-day internet seamlessly connects users to web-based content through the Domain Name System (DNS): a hierarchical, distributed database, operated by millions of entities around the world, that maps domain names to their correlating IP address. Domain names are purchased, whereas unique IP addresses are allocated and assigned (see “Resources” in the FAQ tab). 


Other examples include:

Learn more about these resolvers and additional background on IOT considerations.


The Challenge Breakthrough

We envision a world where people can quickly identify, locate, and authenticate the things that matter to them. We seek a true IoT with the following principles:

  • Every item has a digital twin.
  • A twin is an item’s digital representation.
  • A twin’s creator is its owner and has complete, granular control over its visibility.
  • Any type of digital identifier can be used to look up a twin.

Learn more about the digital twin vision and principles.


We want to establish a true IoT that people and businesses around the world can access. This resolver must:

  • Universally identify things: Work with unique identifiers encoded by a variety of numbering systems to resolve the item’s digital twin stored in the cloud. A stretch goal is to also enable item data from complimentary IoT technologies beyond RAIN RFID to be resolved with the digital twin.
  • Enable ownership and sharing: Enable item owners to own their items’ digital twins and choose how they share the information.
  • Provide trust and privacy: Verify data and identities and protect consumer privacy (for example, by protecting persistent identifiers).
  • Leverage existing infrastructure: Use existing technology, standards, protocols, methodologies, and other infrastructure wherever possible.
  • Be scalable and easy to use: Adoption, operation, and construction should be designed to be simple and desirable for companies and consumers.



IEEE CRFID and the RAIN Alliance will award cash prizes for three innovative web resolver architecture submissions and will allow the winners to present at an upcoming IEEE CRFID conference.

  • First place: USD $3,000
  • Second place: USD $2,000
  • Third place: USD $1,000

IEEE CRFID and the RAIN Alliance will also offer up to four solvers a $1,000 cash incentive for demonstrating their idea by successfully resolving a population of unique identifiers provided by IEEE with their digital twins on the internet.

In addition, the winner(s) will be featured in IEEE CRFID’s publications, web page, and social media platforms.

Prizes are sponsored by Impinj.

Judging Criteria

Submissions will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Universally identify things (3 criteria)
    • Compatible with current numbering systems: Comprehensively addresses the various numbering systems used today to identify physical things, including GS1, ISO (RAIN Alliance, IATA, etc.), and non-standardized/vendor-defined. Clearly describes how a 96-bit binary string will be decoded to identify the relevant intranet/data owner and, where allowed by that intranet, the item’s digital twin.
    • Resolves to a single digital twin: Describes a method to deconflict scenarios where more than one digital twin exists (e.g., when multiple twins are created by the various owners of an item along the item’s lifecycle).
    • Interoperable with other IoT numbering systems: Integrates with complimentary IoT technologies beyond RAIN RFID, enabling these systems to also resolve to the item’s digital twin.
  • Enable ownership and sharing (3 criteria)
    • Defines ownership and authority: Enables item ownership along the item’s lifecycle (e.g., from manufacturer, to distributor, to retailer, to consumer, to recycler). Defines a method to ensure an authentic owner for an authentic item, and who has the authority to create a digital twin and link it to the item.
    • Enables management of digital twin data: Allows a consumer to control the digital twins of the items they own, including a storage plan for the digital twin data.
    • Enables sharing: Allows item owners to seamlessly share selected data fields in the digital twin with multiple entities.
  • Provide trust and privacy (2 criteria)
    • Protects consumer privacy: Identifies personally-identifiable and business-confidential information and provides a plan to protect this sensitive data.
    • Follows good data governance: Defines protocols for security and compliance, verifies data and identities.
  • Leverage existing infrastructure (2 criteria)
    • Utilizes existing infrastructure and protocols: Employs existing technology, standards, protocols, methodologies, and other infrastructure wherever possible.
    • Interoperable: Integrates with other common data management systems for the IoT.
  • Be scalable and easy to use (2 criteria)
    • Designed to be exponential: Identifies a resolution pathway with the fewest number of redirects to reach data owner and intranet containing the digital twin. Defines data management paradigms for persistence and extensibility.
    • Designed to be used broadly: Adoption, operation, and construction should be designed to be simple and desirable for companies and consumers.

Each criteria will be awarded points according to how well it meets the criteria.

  • Exceptional - 13 points
  • Sufficient - 5 points
  • Insufficient - 1 points
  • Not addressed - 0 points



Submission Guidelines

Submit whitepapers (in English) on or before the deadline by uploading to the HeroX platform. Submissions must follow the IEEE paper format (additional guidance forthcoming). You will have the option to submit your paper to related IEEE peer-review conferences.

By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. If you are selected as a finalist, your submission will become part of the public domain and may be used by the challenge sponsor or others to develop products or services.


We are actively monitoring the HeroX Forum-- post any questions on that tab. You can also ask questions privately to IEEE CRFID and the RAIN Alliance.


Challenge Updates

Just two weeks left! New resources posted

July 5, 2022, 9:21 a.m. PDT by Megan Brewster

Hello Solvers,

We're looking forward to seeing your solutions to the Resolving the Internet of *Every* Thing challenge! The deadline is coming up in two weeks, on 19 July 2022 at 9am PDT.

Here are new resources for the final stretch, posted to the FAQs section:

  • Who will maintain the IOT resolver and why?  Example use cases may help focus your resolver framework.
  • What are some examples of RAIN RFID tag data and where they resolve to?  Example RAIN RFID tag data to practice decoding.

Good luck,

The Organizers.

Extended deadline, new resources

April 1, 2022, 12:21 p.m. PDT by Megan Brewster

Happy April Fool's Day, solvers!


Not a joke-- we've extended the challenge deadline (including more live Q&A sessions) and added new resources for how to decode the RAIN RFID tag data (the binary string your resolver will ingest and decipher to find the cloud where the tagged item's digital twin lives). 


Check it out and post your questions on the forum.


Good luck,

The Organizers.

Live Q&A on 4 Feb: ask Prof. Durgin your questions!

Jan. 26, 2022, 7:41 a.m. PST by Megan Brewster

Join IEEE CRFID leader and Georgia Tech Professor Greg Durgin for live Q&A on Friday 4 February 6:30-7:30AM PT (UTC - 8:00)! During this hour, Professor Durgin will answer questions from participants and discuss the Digital Twin challenge.

To join the video conference once the Q&A session starts, click on this weblink: