Top 10 Stories From 2007

By Mark Roberti

What happened in 2007 could have a big impact on what occurs this year and in 2009.

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This past year was not a year of big news announcements. There were no new mandates issued, no big product breakthroughs and no major projects that would stimulate mass adoption of radio frequency identification technologies. But 2007 was a year of steady progress for end users and RFID vendors. And many announcements made in 2007 could pave the way for a faster pace of adoption this year and in 2009. To see what could be ahead, let’s look at some of the key news headlines from and their implications for adoption.

FDA Works on Draft ID System for Medical Devices, Supplies(November)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may soon require manufacturers of medical devices and supplies to apply unique device identification mechanisms to individual items so they can be automatically tracked and traced in the supply chain. While the FDA does not specify any technology, the requirements, once finalized, could help drive the adoption of RFID in the medical supply chain and the reporting of adverse events.

Tech Startup Unveils Printed-Silicon Transistor (November)

A Silicon Valley startup called Kovio says it expects to create printed-silicon high-frequency RFID chips by the end of 2008. If the tags deliver reasonable performance, they could be cheaper than conventional silicon-based RFID tags, paving the way for low-cost item-level tags that could be used on most products.

Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club Push RFID Further Along (October)

The news media convinced many that Wal-Mart was backing off its RFID efforts, until Carolyn Walton, Wal-Mart’s VP of information technology, revealed three new initiatives that are part of what she called a “change of focus” in the retailer’s RFID program. Wal-Mart began focusing on tracking promotional displays and rolling out RFID to its Sam’s Club stores, and it also launched a category trial.

Washington Driver’s Licenses to Carry EPC Gen 2 Inlays (July)

The state will issue the RFID-enabled driver’s licenses on a voluntary basis, to test whether the technology can improve traffic flow across the Canadian border. The trial, which is expected to run until mid-2009, could help dispel fears that the technology will infringe on people’s privacy, as well as show consumers that RFID delivers convenience and security.

USDA Releases RFID Animal-Tracking Project Report (May)

The Agriculture Department concluded that “animal identification and tracing can be implemented successfully in a production environment.” While there is still opposition to government-mandated use of RFID in the United States, the report could have a big impact on the use of RFID in the livestock sector because it comes at a time when many people recognize the need to secure the food chain. Researchers are working on new, low-cost animal tags that also could spur adoption.

EPCglobal Ratifies EPCIS Standard (April)

The Electronic Product Code Information Service (EPCIS) standard is designed to help companies securely exchange data with their business partners in real time, using agreed-upon formats. Retail and consumer packaged goods companies are already taking advantage of the new standard by using software designed to help them track promotional displays and reduce out-of-stocks. The standard can be used by any industry, so software companies can develop new applications that solve business problems specific to particular industries.

Dow and Chemtrec’s RFID-Based Rail Safety Project (April)

The initiative is using GPS, RFID, sensors and satellite communications to electronically monitor the locations and conditions of railcars carrying containers filled with hazardous materials. If Dow finds that the real-time tracking system delivers a return on investment and makes the supply chain safer, it could lead to greater use of RFID to track chemical shipments.

Metro to Tag Garments and Accessories (March)

The German retailer has begun requiring suppliers to tag pallets and cases, but it also believes using UHF RFID tags to track individual high-value items will deliver a significant return on its investment. If Metro proves that it can cut costs and boost sales of garments, that will drive adoption across the apparel sector.

Two U.S. Bills Might Lead to RFID Mandates (March)

The Safe Internet Pharmacy Act of 2007 and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act do not require the use of RFID, but both require track-and-trace technologies to be used for drugs sold via the Internet and for all tobacco products. Congress appears to be taking a more aggressive stance in mandating product track-and-trace to protect the public.

Intel Announces UHF Reader Radio Chip (March)

Intel has shrunk many of an interrogator’s critical components onto a single chip, which manufacturers can use to make more compact, power-efficient readers. This could bring down the cost of readers in 2008 and enable reader manufacturers to develop new form factors, which could simplify RFID deployments and make them less expensive.