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Are There Any Specific Threats to RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 09.15.2009
What poses a threat to radio frequency identification?

—Name withheld

I assume the question relates to threats to adoption—that is, where there are factors or technologies that might supplant RFID as an important tracking and identification technology. On a broad scale, the answer is no, but there will always be technologies that might be better suited to niche applications.

GPS could become cheap enough that you could put a device on every cargo container, but that technology doesn't work indoors and isn't suitable for tracking pallets, cases and items in a warehouse.

Bluetooth can be used like an active RFID tag. There is an iPhone application that enables you to locate your luggage in this way using a Bluetooth device, but Bluetooth was designed for the two-way transmission of data—it essentially eliminates the wire connection between devices. It is more expensive than a passive RFID tag and requires a battery, which makes it unsuitable for use in tagging individual items in a store.

Ultrasound is very useful for tracking the locations of devices within a specific room. A tag emits a sound, and a speaker detects it in that room. Since sound doesn't go through walls, you can guarantee that an item is in a specific room, or a particular cabinet. But ultrasound could not replace active tags used to locate items in large open spaces, or passive tags utilized on individual items in stores.

There are other systems that also enable remote identification, such as RF resonant inks and fibers. Somark Innovations, for instance, has developed a chipless and antenna-less asset identification and tracking system that employs biocompatible, translucent inks that can be tattooed onto livestock, pets, laboratory animals and food (such as meat or fruit). These are unlikely to be widely deployed on products or packaging, however.

Perhaps the biggest threat to RFID is misguided politicians who listen to privacy advocates' outrageous claims, then propose laws, such as mandatory deactivation, that could reduce the technology's effectiveness for recycling and other useful post-sale applications.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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