How Could RFID and Internet-of-Things Technologies Alleviate Poverty?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsHow Could RFID and Internet-of-Things Technologies Alleviate Poverty?
RFID Journal Staff asked 11 years ago

Can you please provide some examples?

—Name withheld


I think it would be a stretch to say that radio frequency identification and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies will alleviate poverty. In the grand scheme of things, though, being able to produce a greater amount of goods more cheaply would lead to more people being able to purchase things that they could not previously afford. Greater efficiencies lead to wealth creation.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most people worked on farms. Clothing, shoes and tools were handmade. They were expensive, and there was little economic growth. The vast majority of the world's population lived in poverty. The Industrial Revolution led to goods being produced inexpensively, which made them available for more people to buy, and also created jobs. This led to the birth of the Middle Class and great economic expansion.

I do have some concerns that greater efficiencies, at some point, might lead to higher unemployment rates. For instance, if all factories were to add robots that used vision, RFID and other technologies, we could end up with those plants employing very few workers. This might lead to more Middle Class jobs. It certainly did in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when companies around the world invested nearly a trillion U.S. dollars during a four-year period in information technologies, resulting in unemployment going down globally.

But it could be that the tide has turned, and that greater automation is starting to reduce the number of jobs. This is what Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and Andrew P. McAfee, the center's associate director and principal research scientist, suggested in their Kindle e-book Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

In industrialized countries in which the population is aging, new technologies, including IoT technologies, will likely help a smaller working population support a larger retired population. But in areas such as the Middle East, where there is a large young population, we could see an increase in unemployment and poverty. Those countries will need to educate their populace to find roles in the global economy.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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