It's likely that in the near future, most products we buy will include RFID.
RFID has grown beyond the mere tracking of inventory items and now has a far more pervasive presence where readers are embedded into products, giving them an intelligence that was unimaginable only a few years ago. In short, embedded RFID allows objects to interact with the digital world acting as a seamless part of a network. Embedded RFID applications can enable innovations in a wide range of industries including aerospace, chemical, hospitality, health care and retail.
We refer to embedded RFID as “RFID as a feature” because the RFID technology is not the primary purpose of the product, rather it enhances the product by allowing it to interact with tagged items such as consumables, parts, reagents, room keys, tickets, disposables, apparel and groceries.
For example, embedded RFID has enabled a new class of smart vending machines which increase ease of use for customers with cashless payment. This enhanced convenience drives increased revenue per purchase. Also, with RFID-tagged inventory, the vending machine can automatically manage its own inventory, ensuring it is always stocked.
RFID as a feature also has the potential to save millions of dollars annually by preventing counterfeiting. Counterfeiting has traditionally been one of the most significant sources of loss in many industries, but embedded RFID provides solutions for pharmaceuticals, entertainment, medical devices and retail by securing data exchanged between readers embedded in devices/machines and tagged items with which they come into contact.
Counterfeiting poses perhaps the greatest threat in the health care industry, where the downstream affects include decreased patient safety, insurance cost efficiency and provider reputations. RFID can be embedded into medical devices such as in urinalysis systems to authenticate reagents based on correct type and freshness.
In the retail industry, out-of-stock conditions average 8 percent across all product categories, soaring as high as 20 percent during a promotion. Traditional processes and systems are not accurate enough or timely enough to provide the manufacturer or distributor with the data needed to anticipate stock-outs. However, by embedding RFID into “smart shelves,” organizations can monitor and report the inventory levels of items on the display to manufacturers and distributors with predictions about when the last item will be removed.
These examples of industries in which RFID as a feature has been successfully deployed to ensure authentication, improve efficiency and drive sales, are just a precursor to what is sure to become a ubiquitous technology. Embedded RFID will surely increase in 2008.