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RFID Journal's Watch List: People to Watch

Will RFID adoption accelerate across industries, or will it forever remain a niche technology, delivering value in only a few applications? We surveyed the RFID landscape to identify the people most likely to influence adoption, either positively or negatively.
By John Edwards
Dec 01, 2008—>RFID Journal's Watch List, intended to help you assess the future of radio frequency identification. This week, we'll focus on the people to watch; we’ll profile the companies next week, and the technologies the week following. Overall, we think there are many exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

By John Edwards

Dec. 1, 2008—Radio frequency identification is at a crossroads. During the past six years, it's gone from an obscure technology used by a handful of companies to a technology that is more widely understood and is being adopted in a broad range of business, government and consumer applications. The advancement of RFID can be attributed to the forward-thinking people who recognized its potential, the companies and organizations that boldly tested and implemented it, and the technology developments that made it smarter, as well as easier and less costly to deploy.

But RFID has not reached the level of adoption many envisioned, particularly in the global supply chain. As businesses plan for 2009 and 2010, and consider whether to invest in RFID or other technologies, the looming question is: Will RFID adoption accelerate across industries, or will it forever remain a niche technology delivering value in only a few applications?

That question can't be answered today; it will only be answered over time. To help you see the writing on the wall more clearly, RFID Journal's editors surveyed the RFID landscape to identify the people, the companies and organizations, and the technological innovations that are most likely to influence adoption, either positively or negatively. On the following pages, you'll find our Watch List to help you assess the future of RFID. Overall, we think there are many exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Katherine Albrecht
Founder and director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), Katherine Albrecht is perhaps RFID's harshest critic. From her boycott of Benetton in 2003 to her August 2008 Scientific American article, "How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People," Albrecht isn't afraid to use the media to advance her anti-RFID cause and deter companies and organizations from adopting the technology.

Albrecht believes that both big business and big government are out to control our lives. She claims that RFID tags embedded in products and documents, such as passports and driver's licenses, pose an invasive threat to personal liberty. She also charges that the RFID industry follows a "deploy now and debug later" strategy for correcting discovered security gaps, while taking a "shoot the messenger" approach toward critics who point out RFID security flaws.

Albrecht raises some legitimate concerns about personal privacy. These alerts could help spur RFID developers and adopters to implement stronger technical and operational safeguards. But her tendency to inflate potential threats and to focus on RFID's negative aspects—combined with the negative public attention she generates—could delay or derail beneficial RFID applications.
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