November 1, 2007
Column | rfidwatch

RFID's signal getting stronger

By John R. Johnson

What lies ahead for RFID technology? According to some of the visionaries who spoke at the September RFID World conference in Boston, all signs point to a bright future. Though they acknowledged that there are still obstacles (like privacy concerns and costs) to overcome, conference speakers agreed that these will fade over time. Privacy concerns, for example, are likely to diminish as consumers learn more about the technology and how they can benefit from it.

As for the long-held perception that RFID is too pricy, especially for small to mid-sized firms, Patrick Sweeney, president of ODIN technologies, noted that the March introduction of Intel's R1000 Gen 2 reader chip should result in a 40- to 60-percent drop in the price of RFID readers over the next six months. Last month, in fact, ThingMagic unveiled its tiny M5e-Compact reader, which uses the Intel chip. The chip integrates multiple components into an integrated RFID circuit and enables digital signal processing and analog data processing on the same tag.

Sweeney predicts that many companies will have more RFID readers than computer servers in the not-too-distant future and that most enterprises will employ more RFID readers than telephones by the year 2027.

Another trend noted by Sweeney is the growing number of wearable RFID devices emerging in the European market. "RFID technology, combined with ergonomics, will become very important in the future," he said.

Sweeney also reported that adoption of the technology has been brisk and that "companies that wait too long will be put in the penalty box."There will be a limited window of opportunity to gain a competitive advantage from the technology, he warned. Sooner or later, there will be massive adoption and companies will no longer be able to look to RFID for a competitive edge.

Also at RFID World, Jeff Schaengold, RFID product manager for Siemens Energy & Automation, told attendees how combining RFID, sensor networks, and packaging advancements will help make the food supply chain safer going forward.

"Intelligent smart packaging will be huge for the food industry," he said. Schaengold predicted that within two years, packaging will be created that will turn a specific color if E. coli or some other contaminant is detected inside the package. Through use of RFID technology, boxes of spoiled lettuce, for example, could be identified by their serial numbers and easily recalled. "The packaging of the future will be interactive," he said. "That authentication and product safety will be a real consumer value."

About the Author

John R. Johnson
John Johnson joined the DC Velocity team in March 2004. A veteran business journalist, John has over a dozen years of experience covering the supply chain field, including time as chief editor of Warehousing Management. In addition, he has covered the venture capital community and previously was a sports reporter covering professional and collegiate sports in the Boston area. John served as senior editor and chief editor of DC Velocity until April 2008.

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