RFID widens its grip beyond retailing

Despite niggling privacy concerns, radio frequency identification (RFID) is impacting a wide range of industries beyond its obvious home in the supply chain

Despite niggling privacy concerns, radio frequency identification (RFID) is impacting a wide range of industries beyond its obvious home in the supply chain

RFID is being used in areas as diverse as passports, patient identification in hospitals and ‘contactless payment’ systems.

Long term, it will be integrated into ERP and other management tools, speculates an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) study.

US market research firm ABI Research expects the market to surge from £800m in 2003 to £6.2bn by 2009. This growth is being propelled by the action of early adopters such as Wal-Mart and Tesco, as well as the introduction of global technical standards.

“RFID is being used successfully in corporate supply chains, and there are a range of potentially valuable applications in the pipeline,” says Gareth Lofthouse, director of customer research in Europe at the EIU, which performed the research on behalf of The North of England Inward Investment Agency.

“But for RFID to achieve its potential, the industry must address valid concerns over privacy,” adds Lofthouse.

In particular, legislators call for RFID tags to be deactivated at point of sale, so that people cannot be tracked through the clothes they are wearing.

The EIU calls for companies to lay out a framework to help them understand and address the process changes required to glean value from RFID.

Mass adoption also depends on price. The price of £10 per tag needs to fall rapidly to make it viable for low-priced goods.

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