Some Positive Coverage of RFID

Two recent news stories praise RFID for helping to reduce medical errors, and one article highlights the technology's role in food safety.
Published: October 19, 2010

I’m always moaning about how the mainstream media mischaracterizes radio frequency identification technology and focuses only on claims by privacy advocates that often don’t stand up to scrutiny. So I should point out when there are positive items in the press.

The SunSentinel published a short piece regarding a presentation by Dr. Christopher C. Rupp, a gastrointestinal surgeon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons. The story reports that Rupp reviewed 2,961 cases in which sponges with radio frequency tags were used, and found the technology helped to recover 21 missing sponges (see No surgical sponge left behind).

Bill James, Seeonic‘s VP of business development, forwarded me a link to a blog on NPR’s Web site praising technology for helping reduce the number of times surgical instruments are left behind in a patient (see Better Safe Than Sorry: Surgeons Get Help Counting Sponges).

The article, which doesn’t explicitly mention RFID, indicates that approximately 1 in 1,000 patients undergoing abdominal surgeries winds up with “an unintended souvenir.” Instruments and surgical sponges left behind can cause severe infections, and insurance often does not cover the cost of removing an item once it’s discovered.

The Los Angeles Times, which I’ve criticized in the past for factual inaccuracies about RFID, wrote a positive piece about the technology’s role in securing the food chain (see Amid mounting safety concerns, technology helps track food from farm to table). The story highlights a project involving IBM, InSync Software and Intelleflex to track produce from Hawaii.

The story highlights the fact that 6 billion cases of fruits and vegetables move through the U.S. supply chain each year, and notes: “What’s currently in place is a logistics nightmare. When the federal government enacted the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, the agriculture and food industries were required to put into place ‘one-up, one-down’ traceability. That means each company is supposed to know what’s going on inside its four walls, where its raw materials came from and where its products were being sent.”

Most companies don’t capture this information accurately. The article points out that RFID can be expensive (a 20-cent label on each of 6 billion cases adds up to $1.2 billion for tags alone), but rightly notes that the cost of numerous recalls is also steep—not to mention the cost in human lives and suffering.

Keep sending me those positive stories, folks.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor’s Note archive.