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Not Just for Business Anymore

RFID is quickly gaining a foothold in the consumer world.
By Bob Violino
Feb 01, 2005—You thought it was going to take years, maybe decades, before RFID gained a foothold in the consumer world. Guess again. RFID is finding its way into consumer products—and delivering benefits.

Most people who drive late-model cars can feel a little more secure because their key has an embedded RFID tag (that’s why the key head is encased in plastic) that communicates with a reader in the steering column. If the reader doesn’t get the right serial number from the key’s tag, the car won’t start. Car theft fell 50 percent in Europe after the technology was introduced in 1997.

Left your 200-year-old violin at the airport? Now it’s easier for the police, music dealers and others to identify the rightful owner of a lost or stolen instrument. Snagg, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, has created an electronic registry for musical instruments. It provides an RFID tag that can be affixed to the instrument and keeps a record of the serial number in a database. The company claims the service can lower insurance rates.

This past holiday season, a toy company called Little Tikes introduced the MagiCook Kitchen, a plastic stove with an RFID reader and pretend food items with embedded tags. The reader identifies the food item placed on the stovetop and triggers one of more than 100 prerecorded food and cooking phrases related to the item. Little Tikes says the toy was very popular at Christmas, which shows that the stove is cool—and the technology is hot.
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