RFID: Emerging Uses, an Overview

RFID technology application is still in its infancy, as organizations are investigating RFID data uses in various areas of the commercial market. For instance, there is much discussion regarding its viability as a system which can eventually replace UPC codes as a means by which to track items.

The technology involves a tag, signal, and receiver. The tag is made up of a silicon chip and antenna and puts out a unique signal through code for every item upon which it is attached. Because there is no battery or charging devise, the signal can remain recognizable for several years. The radio-frequency is recognized by a short-range reading device. This device can simultaneously scan data from more than one item, making it useful for situations like the grocery store. (Laura Hildner, Defusing the Threat of Rfid: Protecting Consumer Privacy Through Technology-Specific Legislation at the State Level, 41 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 133, 134 (2006)).

There are two sides to the debate over the development of uses for RFID. Concerns include cost, virus control, and privacy. However, this is to be tempered against the benefits, that this technology may greatly improve existing inefficiencies. For example goods can be tracked as they move through the supply chain.

Currently, the FDA is involved in a trial study of the use of RFID as a method of inventory control for the tracking of products – verification of shipment, receipt of products and finished product authentication. (2004 WL 3363379 (F.D.A.), 3). The FDA has carefully outlined that this is not to imply that RFID is to be used to fulfill any existing regulatory requirements, such as replacing UPC labeling as a standard for control. (Id.) According to their website, the FDA is also examining the use of RFID in conjunction with medical equipment, studying the potential effects that the radio signals might have on medical devices.

There are many questions to be asked about RFID, its uses, implications, and how the data mining and usage are being regulated. The FDA hope to release further information by the end of 2012 and will be using its website to communicate with the public.

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