tags are in many of the products that we already buy today and the
promise of RFID in the future is that we may not even have to stop at
the register to checkout at the store. In the future, with prolific
RFID tags more powerful than what we have today, all we might need to
do is walk out the door with our carts and our total would be
computed automatically. Today's RFID technology, however, is prone to
hacking, which was demonstrated when researchers were able to clone
an RFID passport while driving by it.Before we can
get to the point where store inventories are able to be done in
real-time using RFID tags, we need to have cheaper and more efficient
methods of producing the tags and the tags need to hold more
information and use less power. Researchers at Rice University and
Sunchon National University in Korean are working on a joint project
using RFID tags that are printed on a roll-to-roll
process that uses inks embedded with carbon nanotubes.The
printing process is able to make RFID tags continuously with a cost
of pennies each. The technology for the ink was first invented in the
Rice lab of James Tour and was at the time used to print thin-film
transistors, which are a key part of RFID tags printed on paper or
plastic. Gyou-jin Cho from the Sunchon National University in Korea
says that professor Tour was the person who recommended using single
wall nanotubes in the ink.Cho said, "Professor Tour
first recommended we use single-walled carbon nanotubes for printing
thin-film transistors." Tour says that Rice owns half the patent
that is pending on the technology and states, "Gyou-jin has
carried the brunt of this, and it's his sole project. We are advisers
and we still send him the raw materials." Tour's lab is where
the carbon nanotubes needed for the ink are produced.Most
RFID tags that are in use today are made from silicon-based
materials. Paper or plastic tags that can be printed would
dramatically reduce the cost of making RFID tags. Printed tags could
also replace the bar codes that are printed on all packages now.The
process developed by the researcher is able to print one-bit RFID
tags complete with an antenna, electrodes, and dielectric layers on a
roll of plastic foil. The process still needs to be refined and
improved before it is practical. Cho is working on 16-bit tags that
could hold enough data to be useful in real world applications and
still be printable on paper.The printed RFID tags are passive
and need no power source, which is what makes them so cheap to
produce. The tags only give off the data on them when hit with radio
waves at the correct frequency. The RFID tags also have to be reduced
to about a third of their current size to be printable on
packages.The team is also working on increasing the range
that the tags can be read from. Currently the printed tags can only
be read from a very close distance to the transmitter. To be useful
in inventorying an entire store or warehouse the tags need a range of
about 300 meters. "Right now, the emitter has to be
pretty close to the tags, but it's getting farther all the time,"
said Tour. "The practical distance to have it ring up all the
items in your shopping cart is a meter. But the ultimate would be to
signal and get immediate response back from every item in your store
– what's on the shelves, their dates, everything. At 300 meters,
you're set – you have real-time information on every item in a
warehouse. If something falls behind a shelf, you know about it. If a
product is about to expire, you know to move it to the front – or
to the bargain bin."
quote: Point of sale is much trickier.
quote: I still think were pretty far away from complete RFID inventory management. The price per tag will have to go under $.01 for any grocery store to implement this with their razor thin margins.
quote: Ahh...in the usual anti-worker environment, the stores would justify the cost by eliminating the then-superfluous cashiers. They would view it as a win-win.
quote: You are aware that normal barcoding comes at a cost aren't you? They are not put on products and controlled/monitored/used by the barcode fairies?
quote: Not everythign in Tesco (and I would wager Walrmart or simlar US retailer) is sold at a $0.0001 margin, so they just have to sell a lot to scrape a tiny profit.
quote: (and I wouldn't look to DTer concensus as a way of judging right/wrong by the way, just a friendly piece of advice)
quote: However, when you look at their true potential then I think that they are closer to being viable that you think.