Everything Is Smarter With RFID

More products in more industries are utilizing sensors, and RFID could help make these sensors easier and cheaper to use.
Published: December 12, 2008

In early October, my father had quadruple bypass surgery (he’s 83 and doing fine now). During a visit to the hospital, I sat on the corner of his bed. Suddenly, the mattress adjusted to my presence. I jumped up, startled by the movement. “There are sensors in the bed,” my dad said. “It adjusts every time I shift position, to reduce bed sores.”

Recently, I rented a car during a visit to Toronto. I threw my computer bag on the passenger seat. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I heard a beeping sound, which got more frequent. A sensor in the seat thought there was a passenger not wearing a seat belt.

Then I read a story in The New York Times about Nike and Addidas shoes with sensors that track how far you run. The Nike sneakers communicate with an Apple iPod using radio waves.

I see a trend here. More products are having sensors built right into them. In some cases, it’s easy to hardwire sensors, such as with the hospital bed. In other cases, it makes more sense to use radio waves to communicate information (shoes with wires are a problem). RFID could help reduce the cost of deploying sensors by eliminating the need for hardwiring products.

Why do I bring this up? Because if you are not thinking about sensors for your products, you are probably missing an opportunity your competitors just might pick up. And if you are thinking about using sensors but not planning to use RFID to communicate data from the sensors, you might be choosing a more expensive and complex route.

The future is about making your products smarter, more responsive and more capable of delivering value to customers. RFID can also make products and services safer, reducing liabilities. I recently read an interesting article posted on the BBC Web site that explained how hospitals plan to use sensors in the future (see Bug alert for 21st-century hospitals).

I’m sure there are some people who are afraid of smart products, just as there are some people who still don’t use ATMs. But most of us like the idea of products that are smart enough to do whatever is best for us. And most people will be comfortable with RFID if it truly makes products smarter and more able to serve our needs.