Wednesday, August 17, 2005

RFID's What are they really?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) and Electronic Product Code (EPC) technologies are being implemented to improve supply chain efficiency and reduce shrinkage by providing more accurate tracking of goods and assets. RFID are being used to replace the bar codes now used to identify products. Many large retailers, including Wal-Mart, have recently announced their intentions to move over to RFID technology in the near future. RFID allows these companies to track their products using radio-frequency identification tags that can be scanned by radio waves at any time.

An RFID tag is a chip that can contain information such as a product's expiration date and temperature, and it can be scanned from a distance of up to 30 feet. This makes it a lot easier for a retailer to find products in a warehouse and keep track of what condition they're in -- big advantages when it comes to managing inventory. (Hmmm you think, 30'. Will they use it for other things? What about when I buy it?)

If used effectively RFID could have a massive impact on many industries with deliveries telling you what's inside before you open the box or a supermarket trolley being wheeled through a checkout with an instant total, the issues as always surround privacy. Who is to say that the RFID tag meant to help a store track its inventory will stop being used when it leaves their premises? All the trials to date have gone to great lengths to show that the tag information is not being sought after it leaves the store but the tag is not deactivated so there is an opportunity for it to be interrogated by 3rd parties be they connected or unconnected to the retailer the standard allows for enough power so that tags can be read from a distance of 20 meters.
The giant retailer Wal-Mart has been very cagey about its use of RFID only confirming trials and trying to allay consumer fears, but to date no retailer has deployed the technology that would kill RFID tags at the store exit, unnecessary the retailers claim, big brother claim the civil liberties groups. Which ever way you see the technology there is no doubting that it could have the largest impact on commerce since the rollout of barcode scanning.

Something to think about......

No comments: