RFID Tagging Essay

This essay has a total of 1759 words and 8 pages.

RFID Tagging

RFID, which is radio frequency identification, uses tiny tags that contain a processor and
an antenna and can communicate with a detecting device. RFID is intended to have many
applications with supply chain and inventory control to be the drivers of utilization.
RFID has been around for a long time. During World War II, RFIDs were used to identify
friendly aircraft. Today, they are used in wireless systems, for example, the E-Z passes
you see on the turnpikes. The major problem until recently has been cost for RFIDs. Tags
have been at a cost of 50 cents, which makes it hard to utilize or really unusable for low
priced items. A company based out of California called Alien Technology has invented tags
for less than 10 cents a piece on large mass runs. The major benefit expected from RFID is
its potential for revolutionizing the supply chain management, but RFID could have many
applications, ranging from payment collections on highways, to finding lost kids in
amusement parks, to preventing cell phones from being stolen.

The RFID tag itself is about the size of a pinhead or grain of sand. The tag includes an
antenna and a chip that contains an electronic product code. Industry professionals expect
the RFID tag to eventually replace the barcode as identification system of choice. The
electronic product code stores much more information than a regular bar code that is
capable of storing information like when and where the product was made, where the
components come from, and when they might perish. Unlike barcodes, which needs a
line-of-sight to be read, RFIDs do not need a line-of-sight. There are two types of RFID
tags call active and passive. An active tag uses its own battery power to contact the
reader. It works greater distance than passive tags, but has a drawback because of the
larger size. A passive tag does not require a battery, but it derives its power from the
electromagnetic field created by the signal from the RFID reader. This generates enough
power for the tag to respond to the reader with its information, while the range is
smaller than active tags, having no battery make the tags useful life almost unlimited and
the size much smaller than active tags. In any event, the key feature of the technology is
the ability for an RFID-tagged object to be tracked instantly from anywhere in the world,
provided that the reader is in range. The tags have been used in high cost applications
such as the EZ Pass on highways and security-ID badges to enter building and rooms. As
stated above this was a major obstacle, but the costs have been driven down recently and
because of this implementation and standardization is upon us.

Several factors will determine the speed with which RFID will take off. The first factor
is how many companies will mandate that business partners use RFIDs. This is a major
obstacle because many companies because many companies are not on up to date and/or have
non-compatible systems. Also high support is needed for the information systems. So a
company must invest into a capital, which many companies may not believe they can spend it
on, not only on software and hardware but people to implement and support. Spending the
money is inevitable, so maybe the best solution would be to package a service using .NET.
.NET is the Microsoft Web services strategy to connect information, people, systems, and
devices through software. The Microsoft .NET is a key part of realizing Microsoft's goal
to provide customers with great experiences—any time, any place, and on any device,
including RFID readers.

Another factor is the success of attempted legislation to limit the amount of information
on the tag or to force removal of tags when a customer pays for the items. One of the
biggest fears is if the tag remains active after the purchase of a product, this could
potentially enable marketers with the ability to track information about the product after
it leaves the store. More legislation will be attempted to protect the privacy of
consumers, but as of right now there is a major lack of industry standards. Due to the
lack of industry standards regarding the use of personal information that could be encoded
on the chips, many privacy advocates have called on companies to state their intended use
of technology. In fact, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse called the Federal Trade
Commission to regulate the use of RFID. As of yet, no federal agency has come forth to
regulate the usage of the technology which is spiking the organization o groups like
Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering that wants to stop the use of
RFIDs as we speak. This group has a dedicated website at http://www.spychips.com/.

Although there are these factors mentioned above, using RFID will improve supply chains
and that is key in the ongoing development of the tags. With that in mind let me explain a
little about supply chain and its current state. Supply chains are flows of material,
information, money, and services from raw materials suppliers, through factories and
warehouses, to the end customers; includes the organizations and processes involved. The
term supply chain comes from a picture of how the partnering organizations are linked
together. Currently IT (Information Technology) provides two major types of software
solutions for managing supply chains- planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling
supply chain activities. The first is ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, which
helps managing both the internal and external relationships with the business partners.
The other is SCM (supply chain management) software, which helps in decision making
related both to internal segments and to their relationships with external segments.
Supply chain management can be defined as the management of all the activities along the
supply chain, from suppliers, to internal logistics within a company, to distribution, to
customers, which also includes ordering, monitoring, and billing.

So how can RFIDs improve supply chains? Well, if everyone along the supply chain from the
retailer to manufacturer to the supplier has the tags, automatic alerts can be sent within
each company and between companies. The need for counting inventory would no longer be
needed and also the other companies would have visibility to the current state of the
other company's inventory. The benefits can tier down the supply change and additional
benefits like rapid check outs can be used that will eliminate the need to scan each item.
Other benefits are real time information about merchandise, ability to control inventory,
ability to prevent theft, and expedite processing of relevant information.

So now that there is some background of supply chains and RFID, let us look at a case from
Wal-mart that looks to be leading the adoption of RFID. In April of 2004, Wal-Mart
launched its first live test of RFID-tracing technology. Wal-Mart used one distribution
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