Embedding RFID in the Workplace

By Mark Vickers

You could call it a just-in-case legislation. That is, just in case employers someday want to force their workers into having computer chips implanted into their bodies, a recently passed Wisconsin law prevents it.

Welcome to the controversial, exciting, and slightly paranoid era of radio frequency identification (RFID). Let's begin with the exciting part. RFID is far from science fiction. It's a technological trend that, if the advocates are right, is well on its way to becoming an essential business tool and a financial juggernaut.

RFID technology uses a combination of microchips, radio waves, and scanners to transform the way companies track things, especially inventory. By attaching the chips to objects, companies are better able to track everything from books to toasters to factory parts to pharmaceuticals. So far, it's a $2-billion business that might grow to $20 billion by 2010, according to some estimates (DePass, 2006). The number of RFID tags is expected to jump from 1.3 billion in 2005 to 33 billion by 2010, according to market research company In-Stat (Godinez, 2006). Helping drive the trend is Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, which is requiring its suppliers to use RFID labels.

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