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No Free Lunches With RFID

We must balance the cost of information with improvement in decisions and actions.
By Duncan McFarlane
Issues of certainty, confidence, risk and chance all relate to the probability of people making correct decisions and taking proper actions. Understanding and quantifying the underlying value (and cost) of RFID-derived information has been central to the past decade's work at the Cambridge Auto-ID Lab, where we have developed tools and methods to address the value-of-information (VOI) questions associated with RFID use in manufacturing, logistics, retail, maintenance, asset management and recycling.

For example, "Would the cost of acquiring more accurate on-shelf availability information be less than the cost of having out-of-stock items, and losing potential sales and customers?"

This philosophy has been carried over into the lab's spinout company, RedBite Solutions, where establishing RFID value for the end user is paramount. The lab is expanding its research to examine VOI issues in broader distributed sensing and data-collection environments, in areas such as construction and airport operations, where RFID is just one of many data sources that must be considered.

While there is no "free lunch" in information capture and processing, we want to make sure the user gets a satisfying, low-cost/good-value meal!

Duncan McFarlane is director of the Cambridge Auto-ID Lab.

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