Back to the Future
Could this just be more paranoia from the public? RFID is often compared to George Orwell’s “Big Brother” theory since RFID chips can store personal information. But, as Ryan stated, these are passive tags that only work in the presence of a reader. “The minute that tag leaves a reader field, it’s as dumb as a box of rocks. The longest distance you can get with a UHF tag is 50 ft.—and that’s being generous. So, this privacy thing where people are going to drive down your street with antennas spinning on the roof of their truck and find out what brand of coffee you’re drinking is a little far fetched,” Ryan stressed.
In regard to chip problems, Ryan believes the failure mechanism occurred in the chip assembly to the antenna. However, machinery has been designed to reduce this problem. “We’re starting to consistently see yields from our transponder suppliers in the very high 90 percent range,” said Ryan.
As in most cases, the good balances out the bad. “RFID has had its growing pains like any new technology. But, its promise is still bright, and it will find its place,” Grove emphasized.
Rocketing to the Future
With RFID, just how “futuristic” will the future be? Ryan witnessed a store of the future, involving a European clothing retailer. The store contained smart shelves, so if a customer picked up a sweater, there was a flat panel display on the table of sweaters that “came alive” or displayed not only the size of the garment that was picked up, but also, different features of that particular sweater.
From an internal standpoint, if somebody picked up 10 sweaters, a note was sent to the point of sale terminal coaxing the sales associate to investigate the reasoning behind this to prevent shoplifting. Ryan added, “Also, if a sweater was moved over to the jean rack and left there, you could find it by scanning the shelves.”