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A National RFID Plan

Every country in the world would do well to fashion a plan for deploying RFID systems in health care, the food supply, the supply chain, drug management and more.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 31, 2011I watched President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last week, and I have to say I was disappointed. There was nothing terrible about it, and it was capably delivered, but what bothered me was the lack of vision. Sure, the president set some dramatic goals—he said 85 percent of the nation's energy should come from clean sources by 2035—but he missed a great opportunity to spell out a plan for "winning the future," the theme of his speech.

In my view, there are several areas in which countries can make investments that will make them more competitive in the years ahead. One is surely renewable energy. China knows this well, and has been investing heavily. Another is information technology. Countries that build faster supercomputers—and develop new ways to mine what's valuable out of the information they collect—will do well. And the third is having a smart infrastructure that allows for the more efficient and safer movement of goods through the supply chain.

I won't comment on the first two opportunities, because they are not my areas of expertise. But let me spell out what I would advise any government seeking to make its country more competitive in the future.

1. Deploy active RFID systems at your ports. The Internet and the Global Positioning System (GPS) were developed by the U.S. military, and were then commercialized. Governments could give a boost to the competitiveness of their companies by subsidizing the development of an active RFID infrastructure based on the Dash7 global standard. Readers could be placed on cranes at ports, as well as at entries and exits, so shippers would only need to apply tags to be able to gain visibility of the goods arriving from overseas. The government would need some way to filter the data so that businesses could get information about only their own shipments, and not about those of their competitors. But this hardly seems like a big obstacle.

2. Deploy an RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) at all airports. In many industrialized countries, airports are stretched beyond capacity. Using an RTLS to track containers for baggage and cargo, ground equipment, employees and so forth would ensure that airports operate more smoothly and efficiently, and that the data could be provided to those shipping cargo through airports.


Julie Leonard 2011-02-03 08:50:06 AM
Marketing Director Excellent article with feasible and viable ideas to accelerate the preparedness of our country in facing the security, safety and health challenges that lie ahead. While nationwide implementation is undoubtedly a massive--even overwhelming-- undertaking, the ingenuity and inventiveness of private enterprise, in conjunction with public support and common standards, can make this a reality.
Barbara Johnstone Grimmer 2011-02-03 04:58:22 PM
RFID on farms I agree with pt.#4 regarding tracking the food supply, and the need for government support so the farm businesses don't need to bear the brunt of the total cost to implement the system. The Canadian sheep and beef industries are making RFID tags mandatory, not only to protect the food supply but also to quickly traceback any animal disease outbreaks.

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