The Development of RFID
From World War II to your corner shop
Like the internet, RFID has its roots in the military. During the Second World War, a crude form of this radio wave based technology was used to distinguish enemy planes from friendly aircraft. But like the Internet, RFID has left its military history behind, becoming a cutting-edge technology which is widely used by the private sector and consumers. RFID has the potential to transform the way we live and work – just as the invention of electricity and telecommunications did in the late 19th century.
Over the decades, research in RFID continued and the first patents were awarded. By the 1950s and 1960s, consumers were beginning to benefit from the technology, with applications such as the anti-theft technology that you probably use today to unlock your car or office door without a key. By the 1980s and 1990s, advances in RFID made the technology even more popular and businesses began to envision how RFID would give them a real-time overview of products as they pass through the entire supply chain.
Making RFID fit for the masses
With the start of the new millennium, RFID standards were established and researchers developed the Electronic Product Code (EPC) – the lengthy number that ensures the unique identification of articles. But the EPC goes a step further in helping business partners to manage their goods in global supply chains.
Right now, most organisations are still experimenting with RFID as a means of managing goods internally. For instance, a museum is using RFID to identify and track the artefacts it stores in its vaults. Later, when it lends the artefacts to museums in other countries, the EPC will allow those museums to identify and track the objects as well. This means art lovers will benefit from more frequent and better exhibitions. Another example: airlines are tracking aircraft parts to document the components' maintenance history, thus ensuring safer air travel.
It is only a matter of time until the widespread tagging of objects is in place, and consumers will benefit immediately: if you have to return your child’s toy, wouldn’t you like to know as soon as possible what part is faulty? Wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure that your box of cherries comes from an organic producer?
All of this is possible with RFID.
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