The future of RFID

by Adam Ledlow

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Symbol Technologies, a manufacturer of enterprise mobility solutions, took its show on the road last month in an effort to raise awareness of the latest in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

The “Making Mobility Work in the Real World” road show in Toronto June 17 included a high tech truck and a series of seminars aimed at explaining just how and why RFID is important to the supply chain.

Put simply, RFID is a term for technologies that use radio waves to identify people or objects. Specifically, RFID tag is the combination of a microchip that stores information that identifies a person or object along with an antenna.

The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader where it can be read and processed as needed.

“In the trucking industry, RFID technology would be most likely used for tracking and verification, confirmation of receipt, as well as tracking (freight) through different stages of its transportation through the supply chain,” said Gil Bautista, senior director with Symbol.

“Like any other type of identification technology, it would give you the opportunity to shorten the transportation cycle in terms of movement of shipment between points.”

Though the technology has yet to be fully integrated into the supply chain system, it has actually been around since WWII when it was used to track Allied planes.

RFID technology’s main purpose for the transportation industry would be tracking and identifying trucks and their respective loads, and would be used in conjunction with the dominant barcode system.

The same technology is already being used to identify and track lost pets, so presumably, it could also be used to identify and track people – like truck drivers crossing the border.

“They are incorporating working RFID for people visiting the U.S., but it’s in conjunction with passports and identification papers to give information about that individual,” Bautista said.

“There are other technologies that people have been talking about which involve embedding (the chip) under the skin. It would enable hospitals, if the person is unconscious, to gather medical information such as allergies so that they can treat the person accordingly without putting them into shock or killing them. There are other ways of utilizing it for tracking purposes to find lost kids or dogs. In all of those, obviously there’s a possibility with the technology, but are they infringing upon privacy and people’s rights?”

So far, only Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense have issued compliance mandates from their suppliers to integrate RFID technology, but as both organizations are highly influential, competitors may soon be forced to follow suit. But as of now, suppliers are wading cautiously into these new waters, as Symbol waits for what it calls a “chasm of mass adoption,” or for the technology to become industry standard.

“The hope for the future is that the technology becomes a key differentiator for companies to the degree that they will integrate it into their existing technology infrastructure, not to displace the technology that they’ve already invested in, but to further enhance its value to the companies.”

For more information on Symbol and RFID technology visit

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