New Technology:
RFID: Are These New Tracking Tags the Next Big Thing?

November 2003
by James Lichtenberg

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About a year ago, when occasional comments about Radio FrequencyIDentification began to appear, I had a little trouble working out the meaning of the acronym. Then I came to understand it and its supply chain uses at a general level: this is a tagging and identification technology; Wal-Mart was going to require that their suppliers deploy it by 2005; Gillette was going to put RFID tags on packages of razor blades in a pilot project; RFID was still too expensive for the book industry, but . . . in a few years, would it become the Next Big Thing?

It could happen.

As you may have read, the Gillette pilot was put off due to fears about privacy. (In this era of the Patriot Act and the gentle attorney general, who wants to walk around with little gizmos that are silently beaming what we’re reading or buying?) But technological solutions to privacy problems are already in development, and privacy or no, the RFID train has already left the station.

Like other technologies–such as automobiles, television, or radio itself–RFID has taken three or four decades to come into its own. The combination of computer chips and radio broadcasting technologies, which has been in use since World War II, makes it possible to implant “information + communication” on an individual physical thing, like a submarine or airplane (or book) and to broadcast “what” the thing is to “reading devices” (na…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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