20 Jun RFID: a ‘30-year project’
WAUKESHA, Wis. – Comprehensive RFID systems for automatic inventory tracking are not quite here yet. But Pete Abell, a co-founder of supply-chain company ePC Group, has a few words to say about when they might arrive.
At the RFID Conference eInnovate and UW E-Business Institute held June 17 near Waukesha, he told companies facing mandates from retailers such as Wal-Mart to implement RFID tracking as early as next year so they would be ahead of the pack. For others, an RFID implementation might take two years or more.
A complete system requires not only the radio tags that go on products or packages, like bar codes but able to be scanned through packaging and from farther away, but also expensive equipment installations to track those tags. And the industry, so far, has few standards.
The process of working out international standards for RFID’s use in the 24 industries that now use bar codes will be a 30-year project, Abell said.
The move toward international product identification has already begun. Whereas the American bar code provider, the Uniform Code Council formerly disregarded anything outside the United States, Abell said, it has merged with international group EAN. The partnership, currently named EAN.UCC, will soon become GS1, a standards body that will work closely with the International Standards Organization to hash out common frequencies and protocols for RFID.
All told, it looks as if full-scale implementations will be a while coming, even if some benefits are already being experimented with. This is not too surprising, though, as the technology has already taken its time, languishing through much of the last decade or so with much less publicity than it now enjoys.
“You had a lot of RFID companies, but they didn’t interoperate,” said Duane Krahn, manager of systems configuration and integration for logistics company Irista.
Security could also be an issue. Most current RFID tags cannot be rewritten with new information, Krahn said, but they can be duplicated. Various sorts of encryption and authentication will be in RFID’s future if its tracking capabilities are to prevent counterfeiting and theft.
Jason Stitt is a staff writer for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.