Is RFID on the verge of disappearing? AIM Global, an industry trade association and authority on that focuses on radio frequency identification (RFID), automatic identification and mobility solutions, certainly believes so, positing the idea that as RFID converges with mainstream wireless solutions such as global positioning systems (GPS), all of these acronymed technologies will be absorbed into the applications they're designed for (kind of like the same way nobody ever talks about artificial intelligence any more, even though AI technology is embedded in just about any software program that uses an algorithm).
In short, the more successful companies become with RFID, the more likely it is that RFID itself will fade into the background.
As part of our continuing series of 2008 predictions (collect em all: click here to read episodes # 1 and # 2), following are five predictions from AIM Global on the short-term future of RFID.
1. Consumers will see more innovative, practical RFID applications in familiar settings, such as sports and toy and food safety.
In 2007, the RFID sector made a concerted effort to reach well beyond the supply chain to extend the promise and benefits of RFID technologies to consumers. Such innovative RFID deployments are being seen today in the sports, healthcare, toy manufacturing, and food processing sectors to guarantee product integrity and safety. For example, in the sports world, numerous companies are now using RFID to authenticate sports memorabilia; speed skiers through lift lines at resorts; validate tickets at sporting events, including the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing; and track marathon runners to ensure race time accuracy. With many recalls of contaminated foods and unsafe toys in 2007, RFID can enable firms to immediately track the origins of compromised food and toys, and cease production of goods before harming consumers. These trends will continue in 2008, with broader initiatives and more applications projected to positively impact consumers.
2. Expanded integration of RFID into mobile devices and other electronics products will provide consumers with new services and greater convenience.
Handset manufacturers, network providers, search engine companies, and software providers increasingly view mobile devices and other consumer electronics products as important tools for interacting with, and providing services to, consumers and businesses alike. Consequently, consumers are now using multi-functional mobile devices to manage voice calls, email, text messages, multimedia, location-based information, personal finance accounts, and many other aspects of their personal lives. In 2008, as RFID readers begin to be integrated into these mobile devices, a greater number of consumer-oriented applications will become available that allow users to become more efficient in their everyday lives as they utilize their devices to interact with other technologies, service providers, advertisers and, of course, other people.
3. The convergence of RFID and other wireless technologies is inevitable.
Today, individuals and organizations are more demanding than ever. Access to more granular information about the location, identification, movement, temperature, and security of products can provide real convenience and value to exacting businesses, and in turn, to consumers. As a result, the ongoing convergence of RFID, RTLS, GPS, sensor, and other wireless technologies in 2008 will spur a "disappearance" of these acronyms as businesses, and individuals to a certain extent, become more accustomed to the myriad benefits they make possible.
4. RFID technologies will continue to enhance Homeland Security initiatives.
From transportation worker identification cards (TWIC), to border cards, to RFID-based e-Seals on cargo containers, RFID is currently being deployed in numerous ways to improve homeland security without hampering international trade. The ability to automatically identify transportation workers with a combination of biometrics and wireless authentication, as well as e-Seals that alert officials upon unauthorized openings of containers (and account for 90 percent of world trade), are just two examples of how RFID will continue to address current vulnerabilities in the global supply chain in 2008. E-Seals, which can automatically locate containers, improve operational efficiency, and ultimately reduce the overall cost of transporting goods.
5. RFID deployments will gain traction within "the first 100 feet" of the supply chain, as well as "the last 100 feet" at retail.
International shippers and manufacturers are now focusing on item-level tagging of goods, as well as the tagging of containers at source factories, known as "the first 100 feet," because it is less expensive to do so, and provides greater end-to-end visibility. This strategy results in more effective management of goods, and reductions in manufacturing and shipping costs. In addition, this approach enables product authentication at the beginning of the supply chain, and facilitates detection of tampering, such as theft or terrorist intrusions to the container, at any point in the process, which typically involves 10-20 hand-offs of the container by different parties. In retail environments, commonly referred to as "the last 100 feet," further inroads of RFID technologies into storefronts, as well as other applications which enhance the shopping experience, will be seen by consumers in 2008. These innovations will further demonstrate the complete value of RFID throughout the entire retail supply chain, including increasing sales by ensuring the availability and cross-selling of related items.