RFID for WHAT? 101 Innovative Ways to Use Radio Frequency Identification—Overview

By John Edwards

When it comes to radio frequency identification, imagination has no bounds. See how others are using RFID—it may spark your own ideas for new ways to employ the technology.

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When it comes to radio frequency identification, imagination has no bounds. Originally targeted at tracking and managing pallets, cases, containers and other assets in the supply chain, RFID is now rapidly expanding into areas the technology’s original developers never could have imagined. Emerging applications are appearing in a wide range of fields—from the arts and education to social networking and travel— as RFID breaks free of its supply-chain roots and heads into uncharted territories.

For anyone who has watched RFID technologies steadily gain power and sophistication over the past decade or so, the technology’s move into new and exciting applications seems like a logical and natural progression.

“When it first started, it was all about ‘I’m going to take this RFID solution and I’m going to show it to everyone and I’m going to get into every market I can!'” says Drew Nathanson, director of research operations for VDC Research. “Then it kind of started moving toward, ‘It’s just too big and broad of a market; I need to have some specialization and some focus.'” Today, narrow verticals are in vogue. “This has been evolving over time, and now you have these polished solutions that are really easy to get into,” he says.

As RFID increasingly inserts itself into an ever-growing number of specialized fields, the technology has become an essential part of daily life for all sorts of people, not just logistics administrators, manufacturing supervisors and warehouse managers. Consider, for example, how New Zealand livestock farmers are using RFID to ensure food safety. Or the way Dutch researchers are pioneering the development of life-enhancing—and lifesaving—sensor-based medical technologies.

RFID Journal editors and reporters recently surveyed the RFID industry as it now exists beyond traditional supply-chain and asset-tracking applications. We compiled a list of the 101 most innovative applications in fields ranging from mass transit to mobile marketing and beyond. As you examine the list, you’ll see that RFID is being used to solve everyday business problems, enhance customer services, educate children and entertain people.

We hope you’ll enjoy this peek into RFID’s boundless future—and that it will spark an idea or two for ways in which you can employ the technology. Subway track workers, for example, may soon be a lot safer because Keith Sheardown, former general manager of Bombardier‘s transportation technology solutions unit, attended RFID Journal LIVE! Canada, in December 2007. While learning about the technology, he was inspired to use RFID to improve rail worker. “You never know when or where a good idea will strike you,” Sheardown says.

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Business as Unusual

Sports and Fitness

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Enhancing the Customer Experience


The Arts

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Patient Care

Illustration: iStockphoto