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[ale] Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips

On Wed, 2004-01-07 at 12:58, Preston Boyington wrote:
> I typically don't cut/paste from other places, but this was thought
> provoking:

I'm currently the chair of several working groups within what was the
AutoID standards process. It has since become part of UCC which is now
known as EPCGlobal. I'll try and speak to some of this and some of the
misconceptions about RFID and its capabilities.

> Wal-Mart believes RFID is the future of inventory management 
> and has set a deadline of January 2005 for its top 100 suppliers 
> to fit their products with the chips. Other suppliers have until 2006 
> to implement the technology, providing the push necessary for 
> RFID to one day replace the barcode.

To be specific, Walmart is requiring the use of field programmable 96
bit tags. This means that its possible, with an RFID writer, to
reprogram these chips in the field.

> Wal-Mart's January 2005 deadline has now been matched by
> the Department of Defense for its 43,000 suppliers as well. The DoD
> wants to be able to better coordinate supplies to its forces and
> believes RFID chips are the perfect solution for making sure troops
> in the field are properly equipped at all times. Other companies
> such as Texas Instruments Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Wal-Mart
> competitor Target are also looking into RFID technology.

And every single one has no intentions of deploying any customer facing
RFID applications. RFID chips are to easy to defeat. Heck, most RFID
writers will burn out a chip if you leave it there to long. 

> While still a long way off, analysts believe RFID tags will
> eventually be found on every product in the store. Those with
> privacy concerns worry that, some day, people might be tracked
> through the RFID tags on the things they've purchased. Some RFID
> enthusiasts envision a can of soda being tracked from manufacture
> to warehouse to store to a customer's RFID-equipped refrigerator.

So far there are no use cases or business models that suggest its
worthwhile to tag a single can of coke. The RF wouldn't make it through
the can, much less the watery substances inside it. Cigarrete
manufacturers hate RFID because of the foil in their packages. RFID
doesn't work well on things like cases of liquid detergent. Hardly
anyone in supply chain management thinks anyone will ever tag actual
individual products.

> Despite the concerns, RFID is moving ahead and, according to one
> expert, "People who cannot come up to speed on this technology are
> going to be left behind. Eventually, it's going to be a way of
> life."

Unless you actively manage a warehouse or an assembly line (i.e. you
deal with actual RFID readers/writers) then 'technology' is really just
standardized web services and DNS. We use DNS to actually lookup the
product code that's in the tag. Actually, there's no reason the entire
EPC Network architecture can't be used with existing bar code readers.

RFID is interesting but there's nothing specific about it that's hard or
paradigm changing that the simple application of 'wireless' isn't the
complete equivalent of. You have to realize, most of the people in
supply chain management still think in terms of 'big iron' and assembly
line workers. Those of on this list naturally assume that anything
electronic can and will be wirelessly accessible one day....


> Wal-Mart Will Use Radio ID Tags To Track Goods, Raise
>      Efficiency - Yahoo News:
> <http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ibd/20031224/bs_ibd_ibd/2003
> 1224general>
> A Free Big Brother in Every Pack - The Sydney Morning Herald:
> <http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/19/1071337156806.html>
> Summit Group Confirms Use of ID Chip - The Washington Times:
> <http://www.washtimes.com/national/20031217-115051-5373r.htm>
> Jan 2005 Radio ID Supply Tag Deadline Remains - Forbes:
> <http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2003/12/03/rtr1168579.html>
> Defense Dept. Working to Resolve RFID Standards Issue - ComputerWorld:
> <http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/erp/story/0,10801,87808,00.html
> >
> Sun Sets Up European RFID Test Center - CNet:
> <http://news.com.com/2100-1006_3-5113755.html?tag=nefd_top>
> My initial concerns are with Microsoft and the possible privacy issues.
> With their DRM push I imagine having to "prove" you own the software by
> having it in close proximity to your machine.

RFID is to easy to spoof to make this doable. Plus, what's the actual
value proposition for that?

> Also, how will Linux get involved with M$ already at the forefront?  M$ will
> probably say that proprietary software is the only way to protect the
> information and try and shut an open source movement out.

MS isn't at the forefront. They've only recently joined the consortia.
Nearly every company involved is behind having an open source reference
implementation available...

Plus, its kind of hard to 'shut an open source movement out' when the
technology is all based on open, existing Internet standards....