RFIDs are one of the technologies I have been excited about. The lead story in the business section of The Economist discusses how RFIDs will revolutionise shopping as the cost of these chips fall to a few pennies in the coming years. Think of RFIDs as things talking to things.
At a Tesco’s supermarket in Cambridge, England, the shelves have begun to talk to their contents, and the contents are talking back. Soon, razors at a Wal-Mart store in Brockton, Massachusetts will begin to let staff know when they suspect theft. This spring, a group of firms will attempt to track, in real time, many thousands of goods as they travel from factory to supermarket shelf. Consultants tout cost savings and extra sales that could run into tens of billions of dollars a year.
Already, RFID tags are made in their millions and used to track pets and livestock, parts in car factories and luggage at airports. Last month, Gillette announced that it had put in an order for half a billion smart tags, signalling the start of their adoption by the consumer-goods industry. If they catch on, smart tags will soon be made in their trillions and will replace the bar-code on the packaging of almost everything that consumer-goods giants such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever make.