Ken Traub (1963 – 2017)

Photo of Ken Traub
Ken Traub

Like all of you, I was incredibly shocked and sad to hear that my friend and occasional collaborator Ken Traub passed away on Sunday.  My heart and prayers go out to his wife and son.  Ken will be remembered for a long time by people all over the world because of  the depth of his technical knowledge, the clarity of his writing, the impact of his succinct speaking, the creativity of his thinking, the passion he had for solving complex problems, and the love in his heart. 

According to Brezniak-Rodman Funeral Directors, the memorial service will be held at Temple Isaiah, 55 Lincoln Rd., Lexington, on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 11:00 am.  Memorial contributions may be made to any cancer charity.

I’ve known Ken for a few years now.  We collaborated a number of times.  Ken made such an impression on me that back in 2010 I wrote a piece in RxTrace I called “Writing Is Thinking. For Example, Ken Traub” (see extract below).  We also collaborated in a 5-part essay about serial number randomization where I interviewed Ken (see “Randomization—An Interview with Ken Traub—Part 1: GS1 Serial Number Considerations” for the first of 5).  I wanted to do an essay on randomization and when I was planning it, I heard Ken make a few comments about the topic on a GS1 call.  After discussing the topic with him we agreed to do a formal interview for publication.  My plan was to record our conversation, then transcribe it and edit it together for clarity and content.  But when I transcribed the recording, I found that Ken’s raw verbal commentary was already so clear it was as if he was writing final copy.  We made more edits for clarity to my own questions than we did for Ken’s much longer answers.  Today, that three-year old series of essays remains the best explanation of the issues surrounding GS1 serial number randomization anywhere on the internet—all because of Ken.

Last fall Ken approached me about doing another RxTrace interview together.  I loved the idea and we agreed to exchange emails about topics.  As usual, we both got busy and still had not gotten around to it.

I leave you with this extract from my essay, “Writing is Thinking.  For Example, Ken Traub” which describes my first business encounter with Ken.  Remember, this was written in 2010:


“Not long ago, my professional experience introduced me to the writing of Ken Traub.  The first time I read something that Ken wrote I knew I liked him without meeting him or even knowing who he was.  That was back in 2005 when the company I worked for at the time had issued an RFP for help with an RFID pilot.  ConnecTerra was one of the companies who submitted a response and I was very impressed with the quality of the writing.  It was written in exactly the same style that I had used in the years that I wrote many RFP responses while working for Professional Control Corporation (PCC) [actually, it was better].  It had just the right balance of technical and business information and it was very easy to understand.  Sadly, my company did not select ConnecTerra as the vendor at that time for reasons not related to their proposal, but the high quality of that proposal stuck in my mind as a missed opportunity to meet someone who thought and wrote as I [wished I could].

“Jumping ahead a year, while working on the GS1 EPCglobal Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard (DPMS), our team had an interest in creating a specification document that used the same style and approach that other good EPCglobal standards specifications had used.  Mark Frey, our excellent EPCglobal-assigned facilitator recommended the Tag Data Standard (TDS) and the Application Level Events (ALE) standard as examples of well-written specifications.  Ken had filled the role of Lead Editor on both.

“As one of the co-chairs of the DPMS work group I also participated in the EPCglobal Software Action Group (SAG) co-chair’s work group, led at that time by Bryan Tracey, then with GlobeRanger, and Margaret Wasserman of ThingMagic.  It was on the calls for this group that I first encountered the voice of Ken Traub.  I remember being very impressed with the few comments he made about various forgotten issues that this group dealt with back then.  It seemed that whenever he spoke up, he always made really good points—down-to-earth, logical, clear and consistent.  When Ken spoke, there was rarely a need to challenge or follow-up.  He just always made sense.

“It wasn’t until one of the EPCglobal SAG face-to-face meetings in 2006 that I actually got a chance to meet Ken in person.  I remember chatting with him after being introduced by Bryan.  Ken explained that he had been one of the founders and the CIO of ConnecTerra before it had been acquired by BEA Systems in late 2005 (later BEA was acquired by Oracle).  I immediately made the connection.  Ken confirmed that he had been the author of the RFP response that had made such a positive impression on me the year before.

“In addition to TDS and ALE, Ken was also the Lead Editor of the Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard, the Core Business Vocabulary (CBV) standard, a key member of the EPCglobal Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and a member of the EPCglobal Joint Strategy and Planning Committee.  More than any other one person, I think Ken is most responsible for the implementation of the EPCglobal architectural vision.  “Writing is thinking” indeed, and Ken is a perfect example of that.  (For a complete list of committees Ken has served on, as well as a complete career history, see  Ken’s professional website.)

“When I worked for SupplyScape I had the pleasure of co-authoring a white paper with Ken, Combining EPCIS with the Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard, and participating in a two-part series of webinars on the same topic with him.  We contracted with Ken as part of that effort to help us fully understand the EPCIS standard and figure out how it could be used in a regulated pedigree context.  Ken filled the role perfectly and, while the conclusions were all made by us at SupplyScape, our work with Ken is what ensured that our conclusions and our proposal fit properly within the intent of EPCIS and within its technical context.

“More recently I have been involved in an EPCIS-based pilot with a major drug manufacturer who chose to retain Ken to help them understand EPCIS and the CBV and their application in drug serialization.  I have not been a direct party to their consulting sessions with Ken but I have benefited indirectly from his counsel because this trading partner has made positive adjustments to our pilot as a result of Ken’s guidance.

“If you are an end-user who is trying to figure out how to invest in GS1 EPCglobal serialization standards-based systems, or if you are a developer of applications who needs to understand how to properly incorporate those same standards into new or existing products, or if you are a regulatory agency who needs to understand the realistic capabilities of those standards, then I strongly recommend that you talk with Ken about what he can do to help you.

“BTW, I feel very strongly about the exceptional quality that Ken delivers in all of his work so I feel very comfortable recommending him.  This recommendation was not solicited and I don’t have any business relationship with Ken.  This is what I believe.”

Rest in peace Ken.

Your friend, Dirk.

5 thoughts on “Ken Traub (1963 – 2017)”

  1. Great Article Dirk – Ken was truly one of a Kind – We at GS1 will miss one of industry’s greatest contributors

  2. This is such a shocking news. Ken will be greatly missed . My heartfelt condolences go out to Ken’s family.

  3. Ken was a great individual and surely he will be missed along with his great contributions. RIP . Thank you Dirk for great write up.

  4. Dirk, So great of you to share these ‘Ken’ moments with us. Ken was brilliant and so talented in many areas, while at the same time so humble and so patient with the rest of us mere mortals.

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