The RFID Uncertainty Principle
Not very long ago, few people knew about RFID tags. Label converters and electronic engineers were among this minority. Suddenly, it has expanded in the vast social consciousness. Stories about RFID have appeared in consumer and tech journals alike. The technology has been discussed in every form of media, and not always with praise.
As RFID gains popularity and people grow increasingly aware of it, the technology meets greater resistance. At the same time, it is working its way into more businesses and industries. RFID critics have been vocal, but there are many supporters on both sides of the supply and demand chain.
In health-care, RFID has life-saving potential. Consider dramatic reductions in fatal human errors by implementing RFID smart hospital bracelets. A report issued by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimated 1.5 million people are injured each year in medical errors. The report also said, “Four-hundred-thousand preventable drug-related injuries occur each year in hospitals.” RFID technology may be able to prevent many of these incidents. Some hospitals are currently testing such systems, explained Max Golter, vice president of sales at Bielomatik, a manufacturer of RFID production machines headquartered in Neuffen, Germany. “The Veterans Health Administration [with about 180 hospitals nationwide decided to] incorporate smart wristbands and smart labels on blood-bags across the board—all the hospitals—and they dropped death by medical error by [about] 86 percent.”
In the pharmaceutical industry, there is a strong desire to affix RFID tags to individual prescription drug bottles in order to verify the authenticity of drugs through tracking and coding. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals cost American companies both sales and legal hassles, especially if imitation drugs cause injury or death. In these cases, the companies whose names appear on the fake labels are often left with the burden of proving they did not manufacture the faulty products. Per-item-level RFID tags could easily provide such proof.