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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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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.

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