Print 39 comment(s) - last by HighWing.. on Jan 22 at 2:31 PM

An example of an EPC RFID tag in use at Wal-Mart  (Source: Wal-Mart)
Wal-Mart plans to strong-arm suppliers into using its RFID tagging system

RFID already has a bad rap largely due to the unsavory prospects of human implantation, possibly by employer coercion.  There is a significant public wariness to the technology, which largely stems from these issues, which unfortunately causes people to often overlook its practical business uses.

By using RFID tags during shipping, pallets of goods can easily be located, identified and tracked as they move across the country.  This can lead to great cost savings while enhancing the supply chain.  Such devices operate in either the 433 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequency, and thus pose no more electromagnetic radiation concern to users than the myriad of other wireless signals that surround us in our daily lives.

Wal-Mart adopted RFID early and has since pushed its suppliers to adopt the system, which it feels is revolutionizing its shipping processes.  For three years now the company insisted its suppliers RFID tag shipping pallets for its Wal-Mart retail and Sam's Club warehouse stores.

Now Wal-Mart is using Sam's Club as a proving ground for the new technology, by economically forcing its suppliers to adopt the system.  The new, more forceful, push will begin with Walmart's DeSoto, Texas distribution center that distributes pallets to Sam's Club stores across the southwest.  Starting January 30, all pallets entering the center must be RFID tagged or suppliers will face fines of $2 per untagged pallet.

An RFID tag costs about 20 cents to manufacturer.  Wal-Mart explains that the significantly larger fee is not designed to be punitive, but covers the costs of labor for Wal-Mart having to reprocess and tag the pallets themselves.  The fee allows companies without existing RFID infrastructure to temporarily pay Wal-Mart to deal with this issue, giving the supplier time to adopt RFID logistics.

Sam's Clubs 700-stores accounted for $41.5 billion of Wal-Mart's $344.9 billion in revenues in 2007.  The stores use fewer suppliers than the Wal-Mart retail chain, so the company sees them as an ideal proving ground for the technology.

The system and accompanying fines for non-comformers will be phased in at all 22 Wal-Mart distribution centers over the next three years.

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Heck Yes
By Master Kenobi on 1/18/2008 3:14:44 PM , Rating: 3
About time someone pushed for this sort of thing. Gone will be the days of scanning each individual barcode on pallets. Simply tag it and run it through the scanner. Wanna find out where in the warehouse that pallet is? Check the computer.

RE: Heck Yes
By Souka on 1/18/2008 3:18:18 PM , Rating: 3
at a cost of $.20 each...even if it drops to $.10 each, I could see recycling drops appearing around stores where consumers can drop off "used" RFID tags for recycling...


RE: Heck Yes
By rfidguy on 1/19/2008 12:30:15 PM , Rating: 2
Currently on-pitch RFID tags cost firms purchasing them in the quantity of ~1MM about $0.08 - $0.12 each. However, an on-pitch RFID label is only useful if the company does not wish to embed it in existing barcode labels. The process to convert the RFID tag to a useable label in current supply chain processes adds another ~$0.05 - $0.07 to the label. Other costs include RFID printers (about $2K each), software upgrades and general over to manager installation of RFID into a supply chainn.

RE: Heck Yes
By FITCamaro on 1/18/2008 3:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
The US military already does this.

RE: Heck Yes
By dajeepster on 1/18/2008 4:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
Can you provide a link for this?.. I'd like to read up on it. Thanks in advance.

RE: Heck Yes
By FITCamaro on 1/18/2008 4:20:09 PM , Rating: 3
One such link.,39024663,391541...

A few years back I spoke with a guy who worked for a company that developed such a system. Their hope was to move it into the private and commercial sectors as well.

RE: Heck Yes
By littlebitstrouds on 1/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Heck Yes
By ImSpartacus on 1/19/2008 5:23:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, my dad is a director of a pharmaceutical warehouse and they have had RFID tags on everything for a while now. His current warehouse was bought a few years ago from Mars (the m&m maker) and everything was modernized including the whole RFID system.

RE: Heck Yes
By Alexstarfire on 1/18/2008 5:33:44 PM , Rating: 5
I have no problem with RFID tags in general. It's not like someone is just gonna walk into WalMart and just scan random RFID tags. They don't really get anything out of it. When these RFID tags start holding my personal information though.... that's when I have a problem with it.

RE: Heck Yes
By Christopher1 on 1/18/2008 10:41:02 PM , Rating: 1
True. Unless there is some type of encryption that only hospitals and other emergency and government workers can get their hands on the key to (and that will be almost IMPOSSIBLE to make come true!), I won't be supporting them either.

RE: Heck Yes
By rfidguy on 1/19/2008 12:38:06 PM , Rating: 2
The type of RFID tags that Wal-Mart is using is UHF ePC Class 1 Gen 2 tags. ePC tags, as their known, have a strict global standard around the way devices (known as readers) access data upon the tag and the way the tag responds to the reader.

That being said, it is possible with the current standard to password protect an RFID tag such that a reader will only be able to access the tag data if and only if it has the password. Likewise, you can lock, or even permalock a tag so that you cannot write additional data to the tag.

For more information on the standards:

For more information on general education:

RE: Heck Yes
By arazok on 1/20/2008 2:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
You're just worried the government will begin using it to track dirty pervs like you.

It's got my vote.

RE: Heck Yes
By mindless1 on 1/20/2008 11:30:38 AM , Rating: 2
What if they're not scanning random data, they're scanning the products you are about to buy as well as those on your person that you have already bought previously? That seems like personal information to me.

RE: Heck Yes
By rfidguy on 1/20/2008 2:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
As I've stated on my other post, reading ePC data is just one piece of the puzzle, you must dechiper what that data means. That aside, scanning products you are about to buy would not be as easy as looking in your shopping cart and recording it that way. Any personal information, such as a key card in your wallet, that you wish to have kept private, you will need to be sure that the vendor you purchased the item from with the ePC tag locks the tag so that random RFID readers cannot access that data.

RE: Heck Yes
By ThisSpaceForRent on 1/20/2008 10:00:05 PM , Rating: 2
Have you every bought anything on the Internet?

RE: Heck Yes
By ivanwolf on 1/19/2008 12:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
The company I work for is working on RFID tagging for product. Being a rental company the product is tagged individually. For a trade show a RFID tag would be great, and the oly info contained would be the SKU and a UID like CHR0001 1005. With scanners on the dock doors, it will be an ideal situation, and the only info contained would be a string of numbers that only had relevance to our company. Now human RFID tagging with detailed info would be a terrible thing, since keeping that data secure would be an absolute nightmare.

RE: Heck Yes
By HighWing on 1/22/2008 2:31:17 PM , Rating: 1
As great as this sounds, and yes I do think it's a good idea for them, I still question how well it will be used. And thats mostly because I have worked inside wal-mart, in fact I've worked inside most of the Wal-Marts in my state and surrounding states. I used to work as a vendor for a company that supplies to Wal-Mart, and as I'm sure any Wal-Mart employee will tell you, most Wal-Marts have some of the messiest back rooms I have ever seen.
Wanna find out where in the warehouse that pallet is? Check the computer.

Now see I read that and think great now the managers are going to have something to argue with you about when you tell them the pallet is NOT where the system says it is. I have been in Wal-Marts where I have had to throw product into a pile to un-burry my pallets that are covered in 6 ft deep piles of product.

So unless they plan to put RFID readers everywhere in the backroom that are capable of tracking pallets in real time and telling you in "real-time" a pallets location, then I see this only causing more trouble for Wal-Mart vendors. Back-room Wal-Mart employees and managers IMO are notorious for moving vendor pallets around on whim, and if it's left up to them to now ALSO track that move with an RFID tag, *laughs* I just don't see that happening.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is a great thing, and I applaud them for doing so, I just don't see it being used properly however.

Not to be paranoid...
By AmpedSilence on 1/18/2008 3:27:49 PM , Rating: 2
But when will it be possible to scan a person's house know exactly what is in the house? Or will these RFID's be "disabled" during checkout?

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By SandmanWN on 1/18/2008 3:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
From what I gather from the article its only by the pallet load not the individual item. So, unless you buy by the pallet, you currently don't have any worries.

Although I would be interested in such a program if it were an opt-in/opt-out service that allowed merchants to send me targeted discounts of some kind.

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By FITCamaro on 1/18/2008 3:51:22 PM , Rating: 3
Yes the RFID tag is on the pallet, not each individual product package on the pallet.

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By FastLaneTX on 1/20/2008 11:55:07 AM , Rating: 2
They're only tagging pallets today. The eventual goal is tagging each individual item, and checkout will amount to passing your cart through a scanner and paying. Grocery stores are hot for the technology too -- anywhere that has long checkout lines.

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By bhieb on 1/18/2008 5:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
I can see the new must have LF refrigerator now. TV plus automatic ordering.

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By robertgu2k on 1/18/2008 6:05:11 PM , Rating: 5
We are one of the vendors complying with Wal-mart’s RFID initiatives. The RFID tags only contain a glorified serial number.

Currently we're only tagging shipping cartons and pallets, but if in the future they start tagging each individual item (which is what the industry wants to get to as the RFID tag costs drops) the only thing the nefarious person would get by scanning those tags would be that string of numbers.

Without the database (in this case ours or Wal-mart’s) linking each of the tag’s numbers to the actual useful information you would never know what that person has.

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By PandaBear on 1/20/2008 2:31:16 PM , Rating: 2
So would that means if someone visit your home with an RFID scanner, he/she would be able to find your hidden copy of "Debby does Dallas" under the couch?

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By rfidguy on 1/19/2008 12:49:18 PM , Rating: 2
A short answer is yes and yes.

All ePC tags (as RFID tags are known that are widely used) have to have a mark on them that indicate it is being used. A point-of-sale systems (e.g. cash register) would certainly have the ability to destroy/disable the tag. Worst case, you can peal off the label and cut it in half with scissors to disable it yourself.

However, even if it were possible to read your entire house, the person ascertaining that data would only be getting a bit array that would have to have a very large database of logic behind it to figure out what you have. Today, it is impossible. To use an example, let's say you buy a high-end computer that has an ePC tag on it and there is someone that is out in your neighborhood looking for this type of computer. For this theif to find what you have he must have: a very power RFID reader and antenna, software that will pull data from the reader, a database that would have the company code, product code, specific company-issued serial numbers for the product. So, today to be able to read what you have in your house, you must be someone that has access to the ePC-related data associated with the product in question, must be RFID and IT-savvy enough to read the ePC tags in your house and must be a criminal.

Privacy concerns are real, and I encourage folks to keep up the questions, but in reality, there are checks in balances in place to keep you out of harm's way. The key right now is education to suppliers that are applying the tags to use the appropriate safeguards and education to the general public.

What concerns are there out there today around privacy aside from reading ePC tags in your house?

RE: Not to be paranoid...
By PandaBear on 1/20/2008 2:33:34 PM , Rating: 2
That my friend would know where I hide all my adult DVDs.

Why so many links?
By mikecel79 on 1/18/2008 3:39:16 PM , Rating: 5
Why is it that you have six links in the first paragraph to other Dailytech stories when most have nothing to do with this story besides mentioning RFID in it? And then you have a link to Google bidding on the 700 Mhz spectrum. What does that have to do with this story?

It seems like most of your articles now are just put up to provide links to other stories on your sight, even if they are not even remotely related. Isn't that the point of the Related Stories section on the site?

RE: Why so many links?
By HotdogIT on 1/21/2008 9:51:25 AM , Rating: 2
You're right, that's insane. It takes until this paragraph:

Now Wal-Mart is using Sam's Club as a proving ground for the new technology, by economically forcing its suppliers to adopt the system. The new, more forceful, push will begin with Walmart's DeSoto, Texas distribution center that distributes pallets to Sam's Club stores across the southwest. Starting January 30, all pallets entering the center must be RFID tagged or suppliers will face fines of $2 per untagged pallet.

To get to the actual link of the article itself. That's a full... SEVEN links later. Seven links before the link to the article itself.

Holy hell. Could we at least get a different color link, or a link with pretty stars around it, to differentiate the article link from the inner-links to more DailyTech articles? It's like playing mine sweeper.

booooo rfids
By cubby1223 on 1/18/2008 11:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
Knowing someone who has worked on implementing rfid tagging for a manufacturer who's biggest client is Wal*Mart, rfid is a nightmare to retrofit.

There are still too many rfid defects. When they are initially created it's easy to weed out dead rfids, but it's catching the rfids that read at close contact but do not work from several feet away that is difficult. Even with 99% good (which they're still not at), every 100 products out the door you have to find the one that cannot be read. How do you quickly find the bad one?

And the packing and shipping departments need to be redesigned, spread out further, so rfid readers from one packaging line does not read rfids from other lines. It's a waste of valuable real-estate.

Rfids cost manufacturers too much, and Wal*Mart is too powerful for manufacturers to resist.

RE: booooo rfids
By rfidguy on 1/19/2008 12:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
While certainly there are firms that are struggling to implement RFID systems, there are many, many WMT suppliers that are successful. Just this past week there was a very positive article released by Daisy Brands, a manufacturer of dairy products (think sour cream). Here's a link if you want to learn how they're benefiting from the use if ePC on their product:

By ElFenix on 1/18/2008 5:49:18 PM , Rating: 2
Years ago Wally World figured out they could do instant inventories and instant checkouts using RFIDs, and they've been on it ever since.

Wally world was the big mover behind bar codes on all items to accelerate check out time and accuracy (as well as price changes, very necessary when your scheme to drive traffic is advertising a few loss leaders every week so that people don't realize you're no cheaper than anyone else).

RE: Unsurprising
By JustTom on 1/18/2008 6:56:03 PM , Rating: 1
Wally world was the big mover behind bar codes on all items

Wrong, Walmart more efficiently used the information on barcodes but they were hardly the primary mover behind its adoption. It was the grocery industry that created the standard UPC.

Thank you Jason.
By chusteczka on 1/19/2008 11:25:44 AM , Rating: 1
Thank you Jason, for your efforts in creating a well constructed article. With only one grammatical error, this article was almost a pleasure to read. This is a big improvement over most articles on this site and is appreciated.

By FITCamaro on 1/18/08, Rating: 0
By GhandiInstinct on 1/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Fatalities
By SandmanWN on 1/18/2008 3:29:01 PM , Rating: 5
One small tiny insignificant problem...

You just stole a wireless location device. ;)
T-minus how long before you are tracked down by the boys in blue?

RE: Fatalities
By GhandiInstinct on 1/18/2008 4:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
You've got at least a few days to do your buying before family members(if you have any) request a search on you. By the time FBI comes in and things start really kicking the device is in a ditch or disabled and the bad guys have a bunch of free stuff they just bought and you're dead.


RE: Fatalities
By SandmanWN on 1/18/2008 5:00:01 PM , Rating: 2
There are a number of unique structures in the body that could solve this problem.

You could code the RFID chip to only be active for a specific users DNA pattern. It would make the chip useless outside of its intended body.

In conjunction you could set it to a specific brainwave pattern. I was watching a show the other day where a paraplegic learned how to move a mouse on a computer with his thoughts. You could have the chip only be active if a certain brainwave pattern matched a set password.

So, the chip would have to be in the host body. The host would have to be alive for the brainwave to match. And the host would have to be cognitive in order to think of the correct password.

RE: Fatalities
By rfidguy on 1/19/2008 12:24:58 PM , Rating: 1
I seems science fiction, but ideas like this sometimes get steam behind it...

Two issue, the obvious is cutting into someone to get their RFID chip. If someone were able to do that, then the offender must have: an RFID reader to read the chip, software with the ability to decipher the bit array that is on the tag and then have some use for it.

It is easier today to steal someone's wallet and get the same information. An RFID chip may include items like allergies, medications, etc. Unless someone is really savvy, I'm not sure how far you get with that type of personal information.

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