RFID Carries Promise and Pitfalls, IT Vendors Tell FCC

RFID faces challenges ranging from performance to privacy, vendors say. Still, applications are foreseen not just in product tracking, but in document management and emergency evacuation control.

RFID carries both promise and pitfalls, and there are alternative supply chain technologies that can do a better job in many circumstances, IT vendors told the Federal Communications Commission during an all-day RFID Workshop on Thursday.

Further, how RFID is implemented will vary according to the application, said some of speakers at the event, held in Washington, D.C., and broadcast live over the Web.

Gary Bann, senior applications engineer at SamSys Inc., predicted that the eventual use of RFID will not be just for product tracking, but also for document management, emergency evacuation control and access control to physical facilities. But use of RFID in document management will require super-powerful readers, capable of peering through as much as 110 inches of paper, according to Bann.

Moreover, for some applications, RFID readers might need to be embedded in cement, Bann said.

Alternatives to RFID include bar codes, GPS and cellular, according to Ravi Rajapakse, chief technology officer for Savi Technologies Inc.

Due to its relatively small range of wireless coverage, RFID isnt ideally suited right now for use with very large objects, Rajapakse said. When used to scan a lot of very small objects, problems with interference can crop up.

Speakers also cited technical barriers in areas ranging from metallic reflection to incompatibilities between RFID implementations across different frequencies.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read why Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman says RFID privacy fears, though overblown, still merit attention.

Systems integration giant Accenture views RFID as a technology that can provide "data acquisition for a purpose" and give "intelligence to everyday objects, "said Joe Tobolski, an associate partner at Accenture.

Next page: Too much hype.