The RFID Revolution Evolves

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The RFID Revolution Evolves
Last November, when metal filings were found inside capsules of the pain reliever acetaminophen, some 11 million bottles of the drug had to be identified and returned to the manufacturer. It was, to say the least, a logistical nightmare. But with radio frequency identification tags, better known as RFID tags, it would have been a snap. In fact, it would have been, more or less, automatic.

According to a report in Chain Store Age,1 RFID tags have been around for about 30 years, but only recently have important kinks in the technology been worked out sufficiently to make them practical for all the uses that have been promised.

For example, Vue Technology just announced a breakthrough product designed for just such a product recall. It comes with infrastructure components and a software suite. It is able to manage literally every pill, from the factory to the pharmacy shelf and back again if need be. Its sensors are installed in loading-dock doors to track items as they leave. Mobile devices along the journey continue the monitoring. In both the factory and the store, so-called “smart surfaces” read the RFID tags, and “smart shelves” in the pharmacy note when a product arrives and when it leaves.

Today, most uses of RFID tags are at the manufacturing plant, where they are installed to manage the supply chain, right up to the time of delivery to the retail outlet. But, since RFID tags can be read up to a distance of about 30 feet, they offer all sorts of additional possibilities.

According to an article in Market Wire,2 one of the most prevalent uses for RFID tags may be in wristbands that are issued to people in lieu of tickets to entertainment events, theme parks, and other venues. According to Market Wire,3 a company called Precision Dynamics Corporation demonstrated its Smart Band RFID Wristband System last fall during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions in Atlanta.

One of the big markets for RFID tags will be the health care industry — for example, in monitoring elderly patients. Intel’s research unit is conducting trials using RFID tags to monitor seniors and sees this dramatically reducing the cost of labor. In one trial, 126 chronically ill patients are being fitted with implantable RFID chips for this purpose.

But in this and other areas, experts agree that in order for consumers to embrace this technology, there will have to be safeguards in place that guarantee privacy protection. To this end, IBM recently introduced a new RFID tag called the Clipped Tag, which is designed so that the customer, according to a report in CMP TechWeb,4 can remove part of the antenna...

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