Can you imagine a time when you won’t have to wait at the checkout line to pay for items at the grocery store? In the future, the items in your cart can be read instantly without having to scan items individually. As a result of recent developments in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, this is a very real possibility! RFID is not only a technology for tomorrow, but is also being used today. You may not realize it, but you may have already used this technology. Before getting into applications, let’s get an overview of RFID technology.
RFID technology consists of tags and readers. The readers read information off tags at certain frequencies. Just as you set the radio in your car to a particular station, the reader can be tuned to read information sent at specific frequencies. In addition to readers, there are two types of tags, active and passive. Active tags are usually larger and contain a battery that powers the tag and sends information. In contrast, passive tags do not contain a battery and relies on the transmitted power of the reader to obtain tag information. The information in the tags is written using special software.
Although, you may not see RFID tags being used in the grocery store to speed up the checkout process, you may be surprised at its pervasiveness. There are many current applications for RFID technology. You may have even used this technology and not even realized it! Before the start of employment, most employees are granted access cards with their name and picture. You may have scanned your badge at a reader before opening the door to your office. The reader realizes that you are an employee and allows you to open the door.
In addition to helping with access control, RFID technology currently helps companies manage their inventory and hospitals manage patient medication. As a result of low tag costs (few cents per passive tag), organizations can effectively use tags in a variety of applications. A business owner can instantly know quantity of equipment in stock without having to rely on old counts. With the scan of a patient wrist band, a hospital nurse can pull up patient information to know c urrent conditions and give the correct prescription medications. As a result, hospital errors can be dramatically reduced. Although RFID technology can help improve lives, few concerns have been raised.
One of the primary concerns is privacy. Since it is possible to outfit an item with an inexpensive RFID tag, it is possible for someone with a powerful enough scanner to see what individuals have bought. Without their consent, individuals may unknowingly give away their information about their spending habits. Sometimes, the encryption may not even exist, exposing your personal information!
RFID technology holds a great deal of promise. Today, RFID technology is used in variety of environments to improve business forecasting and reduce hospital errors. Although privacy is a concern, the equipment and proximity to the tag required are major hurdles for an attacker to gather information. Currently, the benefits of the technology outweigh the costs.