in Applications, Innovation, Services

Some simple thoughts about RFID tags

rfx6000new3tags.gifWe’re all fascinated by the bright future we’re going to have thanks to the RFID technologies. It happens monthly, somewhere and sometimes experts start all together to talk about RFID, new implementations, new tags, new performances and, obviously, new customers. Monthly, because there is a process and a timeframe to respect: the scoop, the understanding, a bit of criticism and a bit of appreciation too, and then the oblivion, just in time for new cycle to start.
It’s important to notice that even the same topics go back and forth, so an application described about ten cycles ago, could be proposed again, in a new shape or even in the same old one, because people doesn’t remember it.
Let’s go back to RFID. As in a recipe description, we need a handful of Tags, a writer to write (!) something in, a reader or more for reading (!!) what we previously wrote, an application for receiving lots and lots and lots and lots (…) of data and translate sequence of bits into icons or names, and someone that can understand all of this stuff.
Easy, isn’t it? All of us, with a technical and “social” background, are ready to invent applications that could apply to this set of ingredients. Despite of reading distance, interferences, tag dimensions, antenna power, reading speed and simultaneity issues, and even tag costs (wow, they worth something!!!), the most brilliant of us start to simulate the perfect world where tags rules against all odds. The first, the number one of these solutions is the retail basket: fill it with all of the goods you want, step towards the cashier and a magic sound announce you that all of the items you collected were automatically read by “the Gate”, and don’t ask for more. You have to pay the bill and leave the shop, no congestion, no queues, no control, if you unintentionally put an item in your pocket, don’t worry, the Gate read it too. The RFID Guru every eight or ten cycles put this exciting innovation in their articles, it’s about ten years or more that hundreds of housekeepers are waiting for this. All right, where’s the problem, we need a tag for every product in the supermarket, even fresh fruits, even a 10cent needle (with a 50cent tag on it, wrapped around…) Tags are going to be as small as rice? Yes, but…how far you can read a tag so small? How it works the reading process, with a passive tag that needs to be activated before to transmit, and needs an antenna related to the distance from the reader? And what about a tag that remains under bottles, paper, biscuits? Which kind of antenna (and power) we need for such a correct reading procedure, with no errors and omissions? Look, all of these procedures are already implemented, they work, but the stuff we need is expensive, limitations are strong enough that no real implementations could be possible.
I think it’s time to stop to talk about RFID tags, only to capture people with false scenarios, without thinking at what is a tag, which kind of tag, readable, writable, washable, reusable, valuable…

Why do I blog this ?
It seems that a powerful idea, a powerful technology, is going to be misunderstanding and misuse; some simple and more effective applications could be made with RFID technology but probably they don’t look so appealing and noteworthy. Let’s try to give some evidence on these.

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