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Sunday, January 27, 2008

RFID will Revolutionize Everything

RFID Chips are becoming ubiquitous. Already most major retailers insist that all pallets arriving into their distribution centers are tagged with the chip. This is all poised to potentially save you money and protect you from counterfeiting

So what is the deal here? What are they, and how will it affect your daily life?

RFID , or Radio Frequency IDentification, is really like a very small radio station, that only plays one song over and over. In this case the song is the unique Identifier for the product. This allows the radio listener, or scanner, to pick up the location of the device. Think of it as a UPC on steroids.

UPCs revolutionized your grocery shopping experience. Remember when every single item had to hand entered by price? Those cashiers were really amazing, but there were big issue, as stores got bigger with more selection, it became impossible to remember every price in the store so they relied on the price sticker (when is the last time you saw every can of Corn having a price sticker!). Well price stickers can come off or be changed, Price check on aisle one! On top of that the only way a store new what was in stock was to physically count Everything!

With the UPC and the bar graph, scanning was made available then eventually affordable. This dramatically cut down checkout time, and real-time inventory levels were available leading to less stock-out issues.

RFID is the next level. This doesn't need to be scanned. As long as the reader is close enough it can pick it up. Imagine pushing your grocery cart thought the check out line, up to the register and they already have the pricing for you!

The limiting factor has been cost. You can't tag a dollar item with a dollar tag! UPC just relied on a printing surface. But like the laser scanner, volume is king and the chips are getting very cheap.

This has lead to new uses such as Contact less Credit Cards - RFID is what powers the AmEx Blue card and other "contact only" cards. Also the pet finder chips are based on the same technologies. Goods can be authenticated using the technology, so you can be sure to get a "real" version of the item. In addition this is being used to reduce theft at retail, which is a multi-billion dollar issue and costs you money in the form of higher prices.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, so one day I can go through the checkout line like I go through the toll booth...!

I don't like those contact-only cards though. I like the old-fashioned swipe. :)

Young said...

I'm not so sure that I like this, but maybe I'm just not ready for it. I'm not usually skiddish just because things are new. It seems like most of the US is ignoring it, so I guess that I'll just get used to it once it's standard.

RacerX said...

@paradigm - The toll booth card are RFID as well. The "old-fashioned swipe" took the place of the old push-down print type that used the carbon-paper!

@Young - Most of the use in the US is behind the scenes right, now, but as costs drop...soon it will be like UPC codes, weird if it doesn't have them...quaint :)

Thank you both for reading and commenting!

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