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2010 RFID Journal Award: An RFID Visionary

Sanjay Sarma is the recipient of the first RFID Journal Special Achievement Award.
By Mark Roberti
Jun 01, 2010On Apr. 19, 2010, RFID Journal presented the fourth annual RFID Journal Awards for outstanding achievement in radio frequency identification technology to four companies at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010, our eighth annual conference and exhibition. This year also introduced a fifth award for Special Achievement. The inaugural winner was Sanjay Sarma, a cofounder of the Auto-ID Center.

Sanjay Sarma, cofounder of the Auto-ID Center
At the time, RFID tags were expensive and used mainly to tag livestock and some high-value products. The information stored on the chips traveled with the tagged item like a mobile database. Brock wanted to network the physical world by tagging everything. Sarma immediately understood the implications of such an approach, and the two founded the Distributed Interactive Systems Center (DISC) to conduct applied research on the concept.

The two soon met Kevin Ashton, a Procter & Gamble (P&G) brand manager who thought low-cost RFID tags could be used to reduce out-of-stocks. He convinced P&G, Gillette and the Uniform Code Council (now known as GS1) to fund their research. DISC was relaunched as the Auto-ID Center (now called the Auto-ID Labs), with the goal of creating technology and standards for an Electronic Product Code (EPC) that would enable companies to track products through the global supply chain. The concept caught the imaginations of senior executives at Metro Group, Sun Microsystems, Unilever, Wal-Mart and others who also backed the project.

As research director, Sarma led the team with a steady hand and creative vision in developing the first-generation EPC tags, data standards and concepts for how to share data securely over the Internet. Today, EPC adoption has mushroomed to every industry and every country. New hardware and software seem to pop up daily. And companies are applying EPC technology in ways Brock and Sarma never dreamed of.

It was Sarma's insights and successful management of the early research and development of the EPC that unleashed this wave of innovation. As Bill Hardgrave, director of the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center and a finalist for the Special Achievement Award, said: "Without him, none of us would be here."
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