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Easing the Burden of Regulation

RFID could make things much easier when it comes to collecting data to meet government mandates.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 23, 2015

It's pretty much a given among businesspeople worldwide that government regulations are burdensome. What is rarely discussed is why regulations are so problematic. Some laws are silly, such as the one in Florida that requires vending-machine labels to urge the public to file a report if they come across a machine without a label. Others are well-meaning—they're designed to protect citizens and workers, but compliance with them requires data collection, and that's where the trouble lies.

Consider the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, passed to address fears that terrorists could attack the U.S. food supply. It requires food processors to be able to identify the origin of all food received by lot, code or other identifier and provide the same information when releasing products. The act applies to both imported and domestic food, including all ingredients. Civil and criminal actions can be taken if information is not provided upon request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within 24 hours.

Think about this. If you mass-produce bread in the United States, you need to keep track of the flour, sugar and other ingredients that go into each batch—and be able to tell the FDA that the flour in lot No. 31 of your bread made on Aug. 15, 2015, was purchased from Supplier X on July 30, 2015. That's a crazy amount of information to keep track of, and the amount of labor needed to scan all those bar codes and make note of all the lot numbers likely has a significant impact on the bottom line of many food manufacturers. And that's just a single law affecting a particular industry in one country.

That's why companies across a wide variety of industries are turning to RFID to collect the data required by governments (see Automating Compliance Processes). While RFID enables companies to better manage their inventory, assets and other items, it also can quickly, accurately and cost-efficiently help them comply with regulations—whether that's counting the number of servers and storage devices in a data center to meet Sarbanes-Oxley requirements or tracking shipments of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Airlines, of course, deal with some of the most burdensome regulations of any industry. They need to track every part on every plane from the moment they receive a shiny new aircraft until the day it is retired—and ensure oxygen generators and other safety devices are in working order before the first flight of each day. The industry is turning to RFID to improve operations, comply with regulations—and better serve customers (see Stress-Relief for Air Travelers).

Many government regulations require companies to track goods through the supply chain. Organizations that adopt RFID for traceability can use the Electronic Product Code Information Services standard to improve operations by sharing information with business partners (see Tuned In and Software Savvy).

RFID can't take all the hassles out of traveling or meeting government regulations, but it will likely make things easier for everyone.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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