Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is not new technology; it was first used on a much larger, more powerful scale to identify airplanes during World War II. A transponder on an aircraft would respond to radio waves coming from a command post that identified an approaching plane as a friend or foe (the IFF or Identity Friend or Foe system).

By the early ’70s, RFID systems had become much smaller and were used to identify livestock and in our everyday life as the annoying tags on clothes that make store alarms go off. Today they are used for many things, including keycards to get into the office, E-ZPasses, microchips in pets, and lately, mobile wallets. (Mobile wallets use near-field communication, which is a subset of RFID.)

In the near future, in some cases the very near future, this technology will make your life much safer and easier. Hospitals are testing bracelets that have RFID tags embedded in them. Each tag is connected to a patient’s medical records, which allows the doctor to call up the complete medical record to a computer or tablet.

In Europe, the intelligent shopping cart is being tested in some stores. All items in these stores have RFID chips, and as they get placed in the shopping cart, the total is calculated. When the customer is finished shopping, he or she wheels the cart through the checkout line (like E-ZPass for shopping carts), and the amount is automatically deducted from the shopper’s bank account electronically.

Mobile marketing can use RFID for incentives. Dairy Queen, for example, is expanding its very successful RFID customer loyalty program. Customers who opt in to the program affix an RFID sticker to their mobile devices; this sticker takes the place of loyalty cards that customers might otherwise attach to their key chains, and one sticker can be used for multiple retailers. Each time the customer buys something, he or she uses the tag to take advantage of specials and sale prices for the items purchased. Dairy Queen is able to track the person’s spending habits and offer specials and coupons that cater to each individual.

The possibilities of RFID and its subsets will make our lives much easier and, hopefully, save us money.

Author: Susan Hallinan

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