Is RFID in Your Future? - Page 3

 By Beth Cohen
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What Is It Good For?

Now that you a basic understanding of the technology, what is it used for? RFID technology is still in its infancy. Although it has been heavily deployed in the retail industry for inventory and shrinkage control where the return on investment (ROI) is obvious, even in the retail sector the potential for improving just-in-time inventory delivery and other marketing efforts is only just starting to be realized. These tags enable retail stores to track inventory in an efficient manner, specifically reducing resource time and minimizing errors. A huge advantage is that line of sight is not necessary for RFID tag scanning. The only requirement is that the item be within the field of a wireless reading device.

The systems are generally easy to manage because they are all built on the familiar Windows or UNIX platforms. The readers are basic devices that need little or no maintenance. Deployment will put a greater burden on your network, but no more than any other ERP or supply chain system would. From the system's perspective, you could track all your IT assets, including those "walking" memory chips and software applications, as well as the larger equipment. An excellent use would be in a large data center with thousands of pieces of equipment to track and limited staff to track it.

Another use that is being actively considered is using a medical ID "SmartTag" to store your medical records. The best analogy would be the old US Army "dog tags" or the MediAlert bracelets. You would wear or carry the identifier at all times. If you were injured or incapacitated, the medics would have immediate access to your medical records and any critical information that could possibly save your life. A good example would be if the emergency medics knew your blood type, they would be able to start a possible lifesaving transfusion without waiting for blood typing test results. The danger is that without the proper security in place, anyone who was motivated (an insurance company for example) could snoop into your medical records and possibly deny you medical or life insurance based on information in your records.

The potential of RFID technology is limited only by your imagination. Tags embedded into the packaging of products and antennas using conductive ink will eliminate the need for barcodes. Portals will replace checkout lines at retail stores. Smart-shelves could alert a store to restock in real time by noting when a carton of milk or a box of medicine has expired. This type of system could prevent out-of-stock merchandise and reduce obsolete or out-of-date products. This would obviously benefit the consumer with lower costs and fresher products as the manufacturers pass the benefits on.

Page 4: Disadvantages and Security Issues

This article was originally published on Jun 3, 2003
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