Visions of RFID

By Mark Roberti

Will the world we've envisioned come to pass by 2030?

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In 1992, at a business conference in Vancouver, a speaker talked about something called the Internet. I'd never heard the term, but the global computer network he described not only made complete sense to me, I felt an adrenaline rush as I pictured how it would change the world—people would be able to sit at their computers and search for company information, purchase products, read about world events, send messages and more.

I spent many a party telling friends about a near future in which all computers would be connected and we'd share information in ways never before possible. After a while, my friends started telling me, albeit politely, to shut up about this Internet thing. Most thought we'd never see the capabilities I was describing. But I was convinced, and switched the focus of my journalism coverage from general business to business technology. Turned out to be a good move.

While writing an article in 2000 on companies managing factories remotely—something made possible by the Internet—I heard about a technology called radio frequency identification. Once again, I experienced that adrenaline rush. I knew that RFID, like the Internet, would one day be ubiquitous. For my friends, it was déjà vu all over again. They thought I was crazy—especially when I sank all my time and money into creating a Web site devoted to RFID. Now, many people say it's not a question of if RFID will be widely deployed, but when. The technology is evolving rapidly, deployments in many industries are proliferating, and some companies are using RFID in ways no one imagined just a few years ago.

Yet, the mainstream business press and some businesspeople continue to see RFID only as a technology for tracking pallets, cases and items in the supply chain, though it's much, much more than that. So, in this special issue, we asked some of our leading contributors to imagine what it would be like to shop, travel, go to school, respond to an emergency, run a household and conduct business in a world where RFID is everywhere (see RFID 2030 and Put RFID in the Trash).

Will the world we've envisioned come to pass by 2030? I don't know—no one does. Some of the RFID applications we describe may never be adopted, but no doubt there'll be other innovations we couldn't begin to imagine.

The articles in this issue are meant to help readers understand that RFID is an enabling technology with myriad applications. Yes, RFID makes it possible for companies to cut costs and boost efficiencies. But it also promises to deliver customer services, protect our food and drug supply, help clean up our environment, improve health care and make life better overall. We hope our vision of the future will inspire RFID technology providers and end users to think, imagine and innovate.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.