RFID – What’s In It for Me?
© 2004 Corbin Ball Associates
This article is available in Spanish. Este artículo está disponible en español.
RF (radio frequency) tags and RFID (radio frequency identification) will have a significant impact on society in general and on the meetings industry in the next few years. This article will cover the key facts to know.
What are RF tags?
RF tags are small computer chips (often about the size of a pin-head) that contain a string identifying digits (similar to a bar code). When a tag comes in comes within range of reader (a transceiver), the information on the tag is captured via radio frequency waves. Typically, the tags are passive (they do not have a battery and do not broadcast a radio signal). Instead, the reader both transmits and receives the signal “reflected” from the tag.
What are the benefits?
RF tags are faster and more reliable than bar code technology. RFID eliminates the need for line-of-sight reading that bar coding requires. An entire palate of product, for example, can be scanned automatically in a second compared to what would take minutes or hours to do manually with today’s barcode scanners.
What are the impacts for society?
In the not-too-distant future, you will be able to check out at the grocery counter stopping only long enough to pick up the receipt -- the entire contents of the shopping cart was instantly scanned via RFID. The RFID reader in your car will sense the RF tag in your pocket, unlock the car, set the seats/mirrors and even turn on the car as you approach. The door to your home will unlock and open as you approach, turn on your custom set of lights, and play the music that you have selected in advance. There is a world of opportunities possible with RFID.
What are the hurdles for implementation?
There are two challenges to the widespread adoption of RFID:
1. The price (currently from about $.20 to more than $3.00 for passive ID tags):
This will come down to a fraction of a cent when methods of printing onto paper are refined.
2. Concerns about security and human resistance to change:
In the same way that people resisted using bank ATM machines at the start, people will resist this new technology citing concerns about privacy and security. People don’t like change, but in the same way that ATMs are now in wide usage, so will RF tags because of the very significant increases in efficiency.
What are the applications to the meetings industry?
The applications to the meetings are numerous – virtually anywhere that name badges are checked or where leads are exchanged:
· Lead retrieval for exhibitors: Today’s optical scanners or mag stripe badges are cumbersome, time consuming and intrusive. RFID would be much faster and can be tuned to specific read ranges. For example, if desired it could be a 5-foot range to track anyone going by your booth, to a 5-inch range to track specific badges.
· Access control. Scanners at the entrances or meeting rooms could instantly verify that the person has legitimate access to a specific room or rooms.
· CEU tracking – People could be tracked automatically when they enter and exit a room for continuing education unit tracking.
· Access to cyber-cafes will open by sensing your ID. It will not be necessary to type in your name. If there is a message waiting for you, the monitor could automatically flash your name.
· Pick up of registration materials could be easily tracked.
· VIP’s could be tracked to be given specialize service, notifying staff or key sales people when they have come “within range.”
· Crowd flow tracking, for example to assist in exhibit marketing, could be done easily and unobtrusively.
These are just a few of the opportunities. We are already seeing several meeting industry suppliers starting to build RF Tags into badges and other networking products. This is just the beginning, however. The next few years will see widespread deployment.