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Eight More Surprising Uses of RFID

Here are some exciting takes on radio frequency identification technology for 2018 and beyond.
By David Budiac

5. Warehousing: LED Guided Order Picking

An online click would never result in a package delivered to your door without the efforts of vast ranks of pickers, who help gather items and package them for shipment at distribution warehouses worldwide. Now, RFID and LED guided picking systems ("pick to light") are helping pickers find items faster, reducing errors in the process. RFID systems are real-time location-aware of both the picker and items on the pack list. Using that information, WMS software can toggle LEDs for aisle and bins—literally lighting the way for pickers.

6. Hospitals: Take-One-Leave-One System for Staff Scrubs

Health-care costs may keep going up, but thanks to RFID, hospitals are spending less on scrubs. One success story is the LewisGale Medical Center, located in Salem, Va. The hospital managed to save $40,000 on scrubs within less than two years (see RFID Solution Cuts Scrubs Costs for Virginia Hospital). It's all thanks to the CabiNet RFID Scrub Dispenser, a device that distributes and monitors the medical-procedure uniforms. The system reduces the tendency of staff members to treat scrubs as disposable, making sure the garments are returned for cleaning following each shift.

7. Retail: Cashier-less, Checkout-Free Stores

While experts have long predicted that RFID tags would lead to stores without checkout lines, this long-rumored future has been slow to materialize. Recently, Amazon has filed patents for RFID-enabled stores, but has denied that RFID is involved in its new checkout-free Amazon Go grocery store (see Amazon Aims to Revolutionize Brick-and-Mortar Shopping). Now, Chinese retailer JD.com is taking strides of its own toward the unmanned store of the future, and RFID is definitely involved. Together with facial-recognition technology, RFID could allow no-wait checkout and personalized in-store offers. As JD.com ramps up its competition with fellow Chinese retailer Alibaba, RFID could find additional ingenious uses.

8. Child Safety: A Lanyard for Inexpensive and Batteryless Alternative to GPS

Most parents know the feeling of brief panic that sets in when a child has wandered out of sight. Now, imagine that scene in a moving crowd of 40 or 50 million people—the scene each year during a holy Hindu pilgrimage in southern India. This year, Vodafone India and police authorities are partnering on RFID technology that helps track children under age 14 as they participate in the ritual (see Police Track Children During Holy Hindu Pilgrimage).

A child wears a lanyard holding a card embedded with an RFID tag. Stationary tag readers along the pilgrimage trail record when each child passes by, then sends a message to a parent's phone to inform him or her of that child's location. If a child becomes lost during the journey, a police officer can use a handheld reader to scan the card and contact the parents to reunite the family quickly, saving time and giving parents' peace of mind. The service is provided free of charge.

David Budiac is a managing partner at Software Connect. He has been helping software buyers make informed investments in business software since 1996. Have you tumbled upon some other surprising use-cases for RFID? Tweet at us @SoftwareConnect.

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