When heavyweights like Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense mandate the utilization of a new technology, one can be fairly certain that it has a better than good chance to succeed. Market making organizations tend to be extremely cautious about such moves and do their homework first.
As you will find in the articles in this issue, both of these organizations have jumped squarely into the forefront of the use of RFID technology. Their focus: improving the supply chain processes that control how products move from manufacturers to distributors, retailers, and ultimately into the hands of end users.
The first stage is the tagging of cases and pallets during shipment but eventually product level tagging could replace the barcode on every consumer product we buy. As you will see, while many powerful groups are working to expedite this day through participation in standards development groups like EPCGlobal, others fear the impacts of such systems on personal privacy. And these privacy concerns are not going unheard. A bill recently filed in the California Legislature aims to put restrictions on the ways that RFID technology will be used on consumer products.
This is a market that could account for hundreds of millions of RFID tags each year. What does this mean to users of contactless technology in other arenas such as payment, transit, and security? If history holds true, it will likely mean a more rapid compression of prices and perhaps a more rapid advancement in capabilities.
A parallel can be made to the contact chip market. The significant demand for low-end phone card chips early on and the huge demand for SIM card chips for GSM handsets benefited all chip card markets. If not for these two waves, it is unlikely that costs for the whole range of chips would have reduced to current levels. Additionally, it is unlikely that we would see the range of advances that have occurred with the technology in a relatively short timeframe.
Let?s hope that the experience holds true and all contactless users will one day benefit from the large volume utilization of RFID in product identification applications.
Chris Corum, Editor, ContactlessNews