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RFID By Any Other Name

While RFID technology is evolving, the term remains a touchstone for people looking to use RFID systems to solve business problems.
By Mark Roberti
May 02, 2011At our recent RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 conference and exhibition, held last month in Orlando, Fla., three people asked me if I planned to change the name of RFID Journal to something broader. One mentioned the growing interest in wireless sensors as justification for such a change. Another said, "visibility and traceability require a lot more than just RFID tags." I don't recall the third person's point of view.
I hear comments like this all the time, and have ever since I first launched RFID Journal, nearly a decade ago. I understand the thinking, though I believe it is flawed. Let me explain why.

First, radio frequency identification is an enabling technology. It enables many functions, including supply chain visibility, product authentication, access control to buildings, payment transactions and inventory management. And many of these applications are linked—or, perhaps I should say they should be linked in the future.

For instance, if you tag items so you can track them through the supply chain, you could also reduce theft by linking an RFID access-control system with your inventory-management system. Knowing who was entering and leaving an area when products disappeared could reduce the incidence of employee theft. It's impossible for one name to encompass the myriad of RFID applications we cover on our Web site, in our print magazine and at our events. PC Magazine, after all, isn't just about personal computers—it also covers software, peripherals, the World Wide Web, smartphones and so forth.

Second, the term "RFID" is shorthand for the entire system of collecting, sharing and using RFID data—that is, for the systems that create visibility, traceability and so on. We write about how such systems enable companies to improve the way they do business. Yet, people relate more to a thing than to a concept. They buy cars, not transportation. They purchase PCs, not word-processing, spreadsheet- and presentation-creation capabilities. Similarly, they will buy RFID, not visibility. Just as the PC represents everything that hardware, software and networking technologies enable, RFID represents everything that tags, readers, software and networking technologies enable.

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