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Canadian Province’s New RFID Privacy Rules Could Have The Wrong Effect

June 20th, 2006

Warning consumers about anything presupposes that there is something bad with that item, something that should be avoided. This might be a self-fulfilling prophesy. The commissioner for Information and Privacy in Ontario unveiled on June 19 a series of tips and guidelines for using RFID within Ontario.

But the guidelines themselves certainly need to be examined seriously because North American products can ill-afford to accommodate two different standards and, besides, neither Mexico nor the U.S. have any material privacy RFID rules at the moment.Read more...


Are RFID Readers Hazardous To Your Health?

June 15th, 2006

FCC regs on RF exposure safety requires that at least 8.7 inches always exist between RFID antennae radiating elements and people. How many DCs bother to check?

One industry official—who asked that his name not be used—wondered whether the potential danger from RFID and related readers was being seriously explored. “Some backrooms have 14-30 antennas and all of these are clustered around doors,” the official said. “No one has started to address any of the OSHA safety issues, nor even ask any questions.”

It’s a fair question. In other industries, labor unions would sometimes push such questions, but the lack of unionization in many of these sites truly puts the onus back on management.…


Alien’s IPO Documents Shed Perhaps Too Much RFID Light

June 15th, 2006
Pureplay RFID vendor Alien Technology's S-1 filing delivers few surprises beyond the required candid lawsuit-avoiding language so popular in SEC filings. Still, Alien statements such as "Both we and other industry participants have overestimated RFID market size and overall growth rates" are noteworthy. Is Alien's IPO a test of the whole RFID market?

The IPO reports that Alien has "had limited success in accurately predicting future sales of our RFID products." Is that like my saying that I've had limited success in making billions of dollars as the world's ugliest male model? That is suddenly my favorite new phrase. When my wife asks me if I've finished cleaning the kitchen, I'll tell her that I'm enjoying limited success in that endeavor. Read more...


RuBee May Be The Way Out For Frustrated RFID Proponents

June 10th, 2006

When IEEE unveiled a major RFID alternative this week dubbed RuBee, it touted it as a way to avoid many technological problems with RFID. Mostly, though, it gave IT execs political cover to look at RFID alternatives without admitting failure.

For years, RFID proponents have pointed to item-level tagging as the Holy Grail, the ultimate payoff when all of the RFID pieces fell into place. That's when full ROI would happen, out-of-stocks would become an age-old memory and smartcarts would become what The Jetsons had always intended. Read more...


A New RFID Alternative And Its Name Is RuBee

June 9th, 2006

The IEEE has started work on a new protocol—a standard called IEEE 1902.1 also known as RuBee--that is expected to give retailers and manufacturers an attractive alternative to RFID for many applications, especially item-level efforts. Officials say they expect products based on the protocol to be available within 12-18 months.

The initial backers of RuBee being considered as a protocol include industry heavyweights from both the retail side—including the U.S.'s Best Buy, U.K.-based Tesco and Germany's Metro Group—plus technology vendors including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Sony, Panasonic, Motorola and NCR, said Pete Abell, a veteran RFID analyst now working for IDC's Manufacturing Insights. Paris-based CarreFour is also supporting the effort, Abell said. Read more...

200 Million Item-Level RFID Chips To Be Sold This Year

June 7th, 2006

This year, some 1.3 billion RFID tags will be sold, a number that will top 2.2 billion next year, according to figures released Wednesday by European market analyst firm IDTechEx. Those figures are noteworthy in the sense that they show particularly steep growth in the immediate future.

But the most interesting detail in the new figures is an estimate that 200 million of those tags to be sold this year will be used for item-level tagging, which is the same problem the firm is projecting will be sold this year for contactless smart cards. Let's put those figures into startling context: the 400 million for item-level and smart cards is merely 20 percent less than the 500 million IDTechEx expects to be purchased for the traditional pallets and cases of supply chain drudgery. Read more...

Calling Dick Tracy POS

June 2nd, 2006

MasterCard today tolled out its PayPass watch in Taiwan today, allowing consumers to pay with contactless without having to take out a credit card. The watch comes with some small retail discounts, but Taiwan consumers are expected to show minimal resistance.

Would this catch on in the United States? Not likely, unless the discounts were a lot more generous than the 10 percent discount in one chain being offered with today’s promotion.

But it’s hard to beat the sex appeal of a lime-green watch with a vendor’s brand on it. Rolex, watch out.…

Has P&G Discovered RFID’s ROI Proof?

May 24th, 2006

When $57 billion consumer products giant Procter & Gamble decided to experimentally tag and track its Braun Cruzer razors, it tied that tracking in with a 61 percent increase in sales. Is a rock-solid RFID ROI business case far behind?


Injecting RFIDs Into The Immigration Mess, Literally

May 19th, 2006

The CEO of RFID company Applied Digital, which owns Verichip, has gone on television to altruistically suggest that . Some ideas are so absolutely awful that words don't do them justice. Read more...

The E-Commerce Future, Google Style

March 23rd, 2006

Like every major sales and communications advance that preceded it, e-commerce's 12-year existence has moved along in phases, as it slowly abandoned earlier methods to accept the new reality.
Offline and online brands were initially kept distinct, then they were awkwardly merged. Initial e-commerce efforts were flashy brochure sites, with rudimentary shopping carts and checkout. Read more...

U.S. Homeland Security Delays RFID Plan

February 28th, 2006

Wal-Mart isn't the only major early RFID backer to have cooled its RFID enthusiasm lately. One of the most anticipated RFID trials was at the Department of Homeland Security, which last year made a move to use super-beefed-up RFID devices track all U.S. ports of entry. Read more...

The RFID Hype Effect

February 27th, 2006

RFID was supposed to revolutionize the supply chain and—by mid-2006—dominate most aspects of product handling within retail and manufacturing. Today, even the most ardent RFID advocates are conceding that hasn't happened and it's quite frankly not even close. Read more...

Consumers Resist Retail Biometrics

January 30th, 2006

As assistant director of information systems for the $700 million Piggly Wiggly grocery chain, Rachel Bolt has been one of the most vocal proponents of biometric retail authentication systems. At Piggly Wiggly, that system—like almost every other retail biometric system being tested today—is based on fingerprints. But although Bolt saw initially strong consumer interest and support for the system, that support has lately seen a serious drop. Read more...

Finding Ways Around RFID’s Errors

January 26th, 2006

For all its powerful potential, retail IT users know all too well the error problems with RFID, especially when the more powerful UHF chips get close to liquids or metal.

But as RFID enters mainstream status in 2006, retail users are going beyond traditional engineering means to address those shortcomings and falling back on the time-honored shared-risk, shared-reward approach with suppliers. Read more...

RFID Fears Create Their Own Market

December 24th, 2005

Like a counterintelligence officer or an anti-spyware company, some entities in life have the sole raison d'tre of countering something else. RFID (radio-frequency identification) today is an unstoppable supply chain force and even the most fervent privacy advocates concede that.Read more...

Sensing a Sensor Censor

November 18th, 2005

As retailers and manufacturers start bridging the gap between passive and active RFID chips, one RFID consortium is cautioning vendors to watch their mouths when talking about sensors.

The self-appointed sensor censor is the nonprofit SAL-C (Smart Active Label Consortium), which has about 20 members from the RFID manufacturing community.Read more...

Harrah’s CIO Bets Big On Caesars Merger

October 31st, 2005

The $10 billion combined gambling empire envisions a future of RFID-wearing cocktail waitresses and slot machines smart enough to pay off the important gamblers first. When multi-billion companies are involved in an acquisition with 100,000 employees and more than $10 billion in combined revenue, executives typically must use statesman-like diplomatic phrasing to show that both sides are valued equally. But with the fierce backdrop of Las Vegas and casino giants Harrah's and Caesars, little is typical. Read more...

Scanner Grabs Identity Data from Driver’s License

October 27th, 2005

A high roller walks into the casino, ever so mindful of the constant surveillance cameras. Wanting to avoid sales pitches and other unwanted attention, he pays cash at each table and anonymously moves around frequently to discourage people who are trying to track his movements. After a few hours of losses, he goes to the cashier and asks for a cash advance off of his credit card. The card tells the casino his name, but not much else. As is required by card issuers, the cashier asks for some other identification, such as a driver's license. Read more...

The Ultimate Privacy Argument Against RFID

October 21st, 2005

Privacy arguments tend to be emotional, often expressed in terms of "security versus privacy."

A book about the future of RFID goes far beyond that. The authors of Spychips do not hesitate to go for the emotional jugular frequently, using references and examples from the Bible, the Nazis, the Russian government and the George Orwell classic 1984. Read more...

Can RFID Be Made Tamper Proof?

October 16th, 2005

With so many retailers and manufacturers embracing RFID tracking throughout the supply chain, there is a strong assumption that an RFID label is still connected to the product it is supposed to be connected with. One vendor—Mikoh—is trying to challenge that assumption. Read more...

Do Falling RFID Prices Mean Item-Level Tracking Is Practical?

September 15th, 2005

For years, the retail and supply-chain worlds have spoken of item-level tagging as the holy grail of inventory control, but added it can't be done until tag prices hit 5 cents. With recent pricecuts delivering 12.9-cent chips, is that Holy Grail imminent? When leading RFID chip manufacturer Alien Technology announced it was cutting the price of its 96-bit Gen 1 RFID labels some 44 percent to 12.9 cents apiece, it was more than a typical price cut. It pushed the industry tantalizingly close to the much-ballyhooed 5-cent RFID tag.Read more...

7-Eleven’s CIO: Contactless Payment Is Here

June 13th, 2005

Contactless payments—whether they're made using a fob dangling from a keychain at a gas station, an RFID chip embedded in a cell phone or a new contactless credit/debit card—have now moved from the experimental to the real-world stage. Read more...

Surround-Sound Ads Make Their Way to Retailers’ Registers

May 26th, 2005

With American retailers preparing to replace their aging point-of-sale units at record rates, a retail POS vendor called VeriFone wants to flood checkout lanes with Linux-based full-motion video, 65,356-color displays and digital stereo sound. The new unit—dubbed the MX870—is designed to deliver animated ads and demos in a loud, attention-demanding manner, which is not hard when customers have no choice but to stand in line.Read more...

Wal-Mart Tests Robots for Blind Shoppers

May 16th, 2005

Wal-Mart started quietly testing a university-created robot designed to help visually impaired consumers navigate store aisles and find their desired products. The robot—named RG, for Robotic Guide—is the creation of Vladimir Kulyukin, an assistant professor of computer science at Utah State University and the director of the university's Computer Science Assistive Technology Laboratory. Read more...

Companies Find Workarounds for RFID Roadblocks

April 27th, 2005

Retailers and consumer goods manufacturers experimenting with RFID are still seeing higher-than-expected error rates, but they are starting to work out low-tech workarounds, according to a major European RFID analyst company that has analyzed about 1,400 recent radio-frequency identification trials. Read more...


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