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Wednesday, July 07, 2004The Economist says,"Contrary to some recent reports, the roll-out of revolutionary smart-tag technology is still going to plan".SO THOROUGHLY have the lessons of the internet bubble been learned that the launch of any new technology is now invariably accompanied by much talk from industry observers about dangerous hype and inevitable disappointment. A case in point is radio frequency identification (RFID), a new, super-cheap version of which may, its backers hope, be destined to transform everything from shopping to warfare. As soon as RFID's boosters alerted the world to their innovations, reports of dire setbacks began to circulate. Yet if anything, the surprise is how well the roll-out of the new technology is meeting early expectations.RFID systems are made up of readers and “smart tags”—tiny microchips each with an attached antenna. The tags can be stuck on everything from milk cartons to hospital patients. When prompted by a reader, the tag broadcasts the information on its chip. Unlike the traditional bar-code, which smart tags aim to replace, RFID chips give every tagged object a unique identification. (A bar-code describes only a class of objects, such as cans of Coke.) Companies hope to use RFID to track the trillions of objects that circulate the world every year in planes, lorries and ships, through ports and warehouses, on to shop shelves, through tills and into homes and offices. Accurate tracking should eventually save hundreds of billions of dollars a year as it improves distribution, reduces theft, cuts labour costs and shrinks inventory. Governments also want to use RFID to reduce drug counterfeiting and improve military logistics, among other things. As RFID price tag falls,As prices fall, demand should continue to grow, from tens of billions of tags in 2006, to hundreds of billions by 2009, to perhaps trillions a few years later. As prices fall to a fraction of a cent, most organisations dealing with physical logistical challenges should find valuable uses for the new tags. Some may one day even thank Wal-Mart for introducing them.
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