Going for the Gold
Michael Phelps wasn’t the only headline maker at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In fact, the arguable unsung hero of the games, ensuring attendees from around the globe were able to cheer on their respective homeland, was a mere 0.3 square millimeter chip boasting 50 microns in thickness. It is known in the industry as the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.
According to the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, more than 16 million tickets were embedded with RFID chips, marking the technology’s first-ever appearance in the Olympic Games. The goal: to prevent the occurrence of counterfeit door tickets, thereby simplifying the event ticket checking procedure. The chip stored valuable information such as when and where a ticket was purchased and where the actual seat was located. Nothing more, nothing less—despite the Big Brother stigma that occasionally haunts RFID chips.
But, in the end, all the hype about privacy issues may be for naught. Tom Michalsen, director of marketing for Weber Marking Systems, Arlington Heights, Ill., has read about RFID privacy issues, although he’s yet to work with a customer expressing concern. “I’m not going to worry about privacy until they decide they’re going to implant a chip in my forearm to track where I’m going every second,” he joked.
Maggie Bidlingmaier, director of sales and marketing for the RFID Division of Pasadena, California-based Avery Dennison, took a similar position. “I do not think that privacy issues will ultimately be a problem for RFID. It is normal for consumers to have questions when there is a lack of education and understanding of [how] the technology [works],” she said. “Once the consumers understand that there is a benefit associated with it, they will accept it just like other technology adoptions historically. I always tell people that the retailer will know far more about their consumer tendencies by the usage of their credit card than they ever will with RFID tags.”