FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, April 22, 2005

RFID: Tagging Boxes Only the Beginning

Asset tracking is perhaps the most common application cited for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags... but futurist Paul Saffo says that that's just the beginning of RFID's potential.

"Your business is just at the point where you could bury yourself in RFID issues and that would be a horrible mistake, because you'll miss the big opportunities," Saffo said to attendees of an RFID conference. "Your business is too small to generate its own lift. The biggest impact on your business is going to come from things utterly outside of it. So pay attention to the things on the outside."

Tagging packages has emerged as an early RFID application because it's relatively easy to do and has immediate return on investment. Saffo argues, though, that RFID will have a much bigger payoff down the road, especially in automating large processes, in ways we haven't thought of yet.

Saffo suggests that contactless payment will be the first really big RFID breakthrough. If shoppers can "pay" for their items through RFID-based credit/debit cards, check-out lines in stores will no longer be necessary. The entire design of stores and the very process of shopping could change radically within 20 years, Saffo predicts.

Indeed, any business that requires an up-front transaction could be transformed by an RFID network. Imagine going to a hospital and being admitted and triaged the minute you walked in the door. Or going to a hotel and heading straight to your room.

Of course, this begs the question of privacy -- something Saffo addressed. "At the end of the day, we're going to feel like tagged bears," he said, "but we'll find ways to conceal our location."

Source: TheFeature