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Potential Uses of RFID

Potential uses

RFID can be used in a variety of applications such as :

  • Access management
  • Tracking of goods and RFID in retail
  • Tracking of persons and animals
  • Toll collection and contactless payment
  • Machine readable travel documents
  • Smart dust (for massively distributed sensor networks)
  • Location-based services
  • Tracking Sports memorabilia to verify authenicity

Replacing barcodes

RFID tags are often a replacement for UPC or EAN barcodes, having a number of important advantages over the older barcode technology. They may not ever completely replace barcodes, due in part to their higher cost and the advantage of multiple data sources on the same object. The new EPC, along with several other schemes, is widely available at reasonable cost.

The storage of data associated with tracking items will require many terabytes. Filtering and categorizing RFID data is needed to create useful information. It is likely that goods will be tracked by the pallet using RFID tags, and at package level with Universal Product Code (UPC) or EAN from unique barcodes.

The unique identity is a mandatory requirement for RFID tags, despite special choice of the numbering scheme. RFID tag data capacity is large enough that each individual tag will have a unique code, while current bar codes are limited to a single type code for a particular product. The uniqueness of RFID tags means that a product may be tracked as it moves from location to location, finally ending up in the consumer's hands. This may help to combat theft and other forms of product loss. The tracing of products is an important feature that gets well supported with RFID tags containing a unique identity of the tag and also the serial number of the object. This may help companies to cope with quality deficiencies and resulting recall campaigns, but also contributes to concern about tracking and profiling of consumers after the sale.

It has also been proposed to use RFID for POS store checkout to replace the cashier with an automatic system which needs no barcode scanning. This is not likely without a significant reduction in the cost of tags and changes in the POS process. There is some research taking place, however, this is some years from reaching fruition.

An FDA-nominated task force concluded, after studying the various technologies currently commercially available, which of those technologies could meet the pedigree requirements. Amongst all technologies studied including bar coding, RFID seemed to be the most promising and the committee felt that the pedigree requirement could be met by easily leveraging something that is readily available. (More details see RFID-FDA-Regulations)

Telemetry

Active RFID tags also have the potential to function as low-cost remote sensors that broadcast telemetry back to a base station. Applications of tagometry data could include sensing of road conditions by implanted beacons, weather reports, and noise level monitoring.

Passive RFID tags can also report sensor data. For example, the Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform is a passive tag that reports temperature, acceleration and capacitance to commercial Gen2 RFID readers.

It is possible that active or semi-passive RFID tags used with or in place of barcodes could broadcast a signal to an in-store receiver to determine whether the RFID tag (product) is in the store.

Identification of patients and hospital staff

In July 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling that essentially begins a final review process that will determine whether hospitals can use RFID systems to identify patients and/or permit relevant hospital staff to access medical records. Since then, a number of U.S. hospitals have begun implanting patients with RFID tags and using RFID systems, usually for workflow and inventory management. There is some evidence, as well, that nurses and other hospital staff may be subjected to increased surveillance of their activities or to labor intensification as a result of the implementation of RFID systems in hospitals.The use of RFID to prevent mixups between sperm and ova in IVF clinics is also being considered.

In October 2004, the FDA approved USA's first RFID chips that can be implanted in humans. The 134 kHz RFID chips, from VeriChip Corp. can incorporate personal medical information and could save lives and limit injuries from errors in medical treatments, according to the company. The FDA approval was disclosed during a conference call with investors. Shortly after the approval, authors and anti-RFID activists Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre discovered a warning letter from the FDA that spelled out serious health risks associated with the VeriChip. According to the FDA, these include "adverse tissue reaction", "migration of the implanted transponder", "failure of implanted transponder", "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibility."

St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh has deployed an RFID and barcode based bedside medication verification system that improves patient safety by reducing medication errors. Nurses use a PDA equipped with a portable RFID reader and barcode scanner to check patient ID and medications before administering any drugs, including drugs delivered through IV pumps. 

To combat home health fraud, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced heightened scrutiny of the home health care industry. In March, 2009, Elite Medical Supply, a durable medical equipment supplier in New York were one of the first to sign on to combat Medical fraud. They selected CYBRA's EdgeMagic RFID and Bar Code Software to rollout the process.