Radio-frequency identification is, in fact, already pervasive in our lives used to track everything from pets to prisoners to products. Cars zip through tollbooths thanks to payment systems using RFID. More than 50 million pets worldwide are tagged with RFID chips. At least 20 million livestock have RFID tags to follow them for possible disease breakouts. A museum in Rotterdam uses RFID to guard its Rembrandts and Renoirs. And for the past two years, Oscar-goers have been screened and tracked by RFID.
Now RFID is about to reach ubiquity, bringing its ability to track everything, everywhere, all the time from the factory right into your home. Spooky but incredibly productive, RFID is the basis of 6,000 patents filed for wireless payments, keyless entries, cosmetics mixing, laundry tracking and patient monitoring. Think of it as the me-generation successor to the bar code.
An RFID reader emits a radio wave to scan the chip via an attached antenna. Unlike bar codes, which have to be scanned one at a time, an RFID reader can theoretically scan every item in a shopping basket, case or pallet at one glance, at a distance, even in rotten conditions like inside a freezer or in a sandstorm. Place an RFID reader in a series of gateways, and it can follow supplies from assembly line to store shelves and right out the door with the customer.