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What Are the Pros and Cons of RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 07.24.2009
What are the primary benefits and drawbacks of radio frequency identification technology?

—Name withheld

Our Get Started section explains the main business and consumer applications for RFID technologies. In general, the primary benefit is that RFID enables data to be captured automatically, and tasks to be automated. Instead of people manually scanning bar codes to collect information regarding an object and its location, an RFID system can capture the data automatically.

That means more data can be captured in more locations without incurring additional labor costs. Given the complexity of today's manufacturing, supply chain and retail applications, this is a very powerful concept that can bring new levels of efficiencies not possible with bar codes and other data-capture technologies.

As for drawbacks, I don't believe there are any. RFID is merely a tool. Saying there are drawbacks to RFID is like saying there are drawbacks to hammers and screwdrivers. Tools can, of course, be abused. People have killed their spouses with hammers, for instance. But I'm not sure one can consider the possibility of abuse a drawback—if so, it would be a drawback for every item in existence.

If by drawback, you're asking which factors make RFID unattractive for certain applications, then there are several. One is cost. If you want to track individual cans of soup, or packs of gum, a 10-cent RFID tag is not a good option.

Another drawback is that the technology is not foolproof. Radio waves are affected by metal, water and electromagnetic interference, so it's difficult to guarantee every tag will be read every time.

And another is the technology's relative immaturity. Great advances have been made in producing tags and interrogators that are easier to deploy, but complete systems that solve real business problems are still being developed. Over time, the technology will become less expensive, more robust and easier to deploy.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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