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Overview of FTC Workshop | Workshop Comparison Table | Panel 1 | Panel 2 | Panel 3 | Panel 4 | Panel 5 | PM Conclusions

Panel 2: Current and Anticipated Uses of RF Technologies

The second panel was supposed to dive deeper into the current uses of RFID and make some predictions about its future uses. Unfortunately the panel repeated much what was covered in the first panel but below we have noted what was new and kept us awake. The speakers were: Charles Harwood of the FTC (moderator), Lyle Ginsburg of Accenture (moderator), William Allen of Texas Instruments, Ken Fishing of Intel, Simon Langford of Wal-Mart, Paul Rudolf of the Food and Drug Administration, Peter Sand of US Department of Homeland Security, Lee Tien of Electronic Frontier Foundation and Britt Wood of Retail Industry Leaders Association.

So where are these speakers coming from?

In Accenture's own words: "Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Accenture is a pioneer in the area of RFID/EPC: We are a founding member of EPCglobal (formerly the Auto-IDCenter), the group that is setting the standards for the technology around the world. For the past eight years, the Accenture Technology Labs have been immersed in RFID/EPCresearch and development. Accenture offers high-performance solutions that help our clients across varied industries to seize the opportunities RFID/EPCoffers: from efficiency and profitability to complete value chain transformation."
Texas Instruments (TI)
In TI's own words: "Texas Instruments Radio Frequency Identification (TI-RFid™) Systems is an industry leader in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and the world’s largest integrated manufacturer of RFID tags, smart labels and reader systems. With more than 400 million tags manufactured, TI-RFid™ technology is used in a broad range of applications worldwide including access control, automotive, document tracking, livestock, product authentication, retail, sports timing, supply chain, ticketing and wireless payment. TI is [...] working to drive the adoption of global standards for RFID."
Intel Research Seattle is currently involved in RFID concept trials. They state: "In a future world of ubiquitous and proactive computing, billions of embedded devices will anticipate our needs and take appropriate action on our behalf.  If this vision is to become a practical reality, the devices must fade into the background, where they will assist users without distracting them from the task at hand."
Wal-Mart has set a January 2005 target for its top 100 suppliers to be placing RFID tags on cases and pallets destined for Wal-Mart stores and SAM'S CLUB locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex area. The company announced its RFID mandate in 2003 and is a major driving force behind the commercial implementation of RFID.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA believes radio frequency identification (RFID) is the most effective way to track and trace drugs from the point of manufacturing to the point of dispensing and sees RFID as the "cornerstone" in its fight against counterfeit drugs. The FDA is therefore promoting RFID tags to uniquely identify individual pill bottles and believes across the supply chain implementation is feasible by 2007.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
The Department of Homeland Security's mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure America and protect against terrorist threats to the nation. DHS wants to ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce. To fufill this mission, DHS has adopted RFID in several applications such as the US-Canada Nexus program.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
EFF is a nonprofit group of lawyers, volunteers, and visionaries working to protect digital rights. EFF is working to ensure that embrace of RFID technology does not erode individuals' rights to privacy.
Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)
In RILA's own words: "The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), formerly IMRA, is the world's leading alliance of retailers and their product and service suppliers. RILA leads and serves the most successful and innovative retailers and suppliers through the delivery of world-class education, learning, and advocacy. Our focus relies upon valuable learnings, personal experience, idea sharing, networking, and best practices. We execute on this focus based on the guidance of our corporate values."

What Kept Us Awake during Panel Two:

Lyle Ginsburg of Accenture had this to say:

"All systems go" with RFID implementation despite major set backs like: costs are too high; read rate is too slow; communication distances are too short; there are multiple frequencies (which one do we use?); businesses are slow to adopt standards; China is threatening to create its own standard; and the media reports that RFID is the mark of the devil. So why full speed ahead given these realities [He didn't answer this question... perhaps it was rhetorical]?

Businesses will not see benefits immediately; this is the beginning of a marathon. RFID truly is a global phenomenon. The US business-world must engage Asia because tagging consumer electronics is very important along with apparel, pharmaceuticals and electronic media.

RFID will get down to item level tagging, not just about tagging cases and palettes in the supply chain like some companies claim [Wal-Mart]. It has to be item level in order to get the true business value.

Brit Wood of RILA:

Why do retailers want RFID?: increases sales due to decrease out-of-stock; if you know where an item is at all times then it easier to move it to where you need it (this reduces transportation costs, increases shelf visibility and reduces wasteful overstock); reduces "shrink and theft" in supply chain ("If we know where product is and know when it disappears, it easier to sleuth the problem!"); makes it easier to recall products; and extends shelf-level of perishables.

Economics behind RFID: See this cost ratio chart.

Simon Langford from Wal-Mart:

For Wal-Mart, RFID offers huge potential across the supply chain. There are collaborative benefits [between store and shopper]; this means improved shopper experience (better service, more product on shelves). And there are internal benefits [for store only]; this mean better efficiency and better distribution.

There is a human factor in barcode [a person scans each barcode]. Store data is more accurate with RFID because you take out human error.

Technology has always helped Wal-Mart meet its mission: to keep its stores and clubs fully stocked and costs as low as possible. The latest tool in the Wal-Mart arsenal: RFID!

No readers on sales floor at this time. The last reader in supply chain is at the door of the stock room before entering the sales floor. There are some tags on the floor, like on Hewlitt-Packard printers.

[Later someone asked: "What are we going to do with all this data?" William Allen answered: If Wal-Mart followed through with its current RFID plan, it would generate at least 7.6 million terrabytes of data per day. This a daunting amount of data but solutions will come along to handle this. ]

William Allen of Texas Instruments (TI):

The first use of TI-RF (Texas Instrument Radio Frequency) was 15 years ago to track and trace livestock in a response to mad cow disease in England.

The Vatican has decided to use RFID to track books in its library and objects in its museum.

Seven million customers in the US are using Exxon-Mobil's Speedpass [this is an attachment to your keychain with RFID chip] to speed up the somewhat inconvenient task of filling your car up with gas. Japan, Singapore, Canada also have a similar service.

Marks and Spencer is a long time user of RFID. Currently track 4 million food trays with RFID and they picked up 8 hours of store shelf life for chilled food because of this. And they also reduced labor by 80%.

Some other current RFID uses: event access and ticketing (ski tags in the Alps); keeps kids safe [by tracking them] in theme parks; ensures patients get the right blood type in hospital; ensures new parents get the right baby in hospital; tracks marathon runners in real-time; makes sure injured soldiers in Iraq get the right treatment; tracks tree growth rate in Oregon; and tracks salmon migration patterns.

RFID will bring new business opportunity and stimulate the hi-tech sector.

Ken Fishing of Intel:

There are new small RFID readers the size of a quarter and in some cases the size of a dime!

Ken Fishing showed an Intel concept video that described a potential use of such small RFID technology: keeping track of grandma when you can't be with her. Make sure she takes her medicine and goes for a walk when you are far away, because family is everything.

Paul Rudolph of Food and Drug Association (FDA):

There are about 20 - 25 counterfeit drug investigations a year in the US. These are large-scale investigations, each involving hundreds of investigators and companies. Now counterfeit drugs can be sold over the Internet, so it's a growing problem for FDA. Most important to the fight against counterfeit drugs is establishing a "reliable pedigree." RFID's ability to track and trace a drug (find out where it's going and where it has been) makes it the cornerstone of the FDA fight. RFID can provide a reliable pedigree for FDA and is the best means to do so both in the US and the world.

2D barcode can also uniquely identify or give a unique serial number to each pill bottle. So 2D barcodes could be used instead of RFID but FDA prefers RFID [did not qualify...].

The FDA wants as rapid adoption as possible of RFID in pharmaceutical supply chain. After consulting Wal-Mart, the FDA thinks this is feasible and likely to happen by 2007. This means all cases and palettes will be tagged and most pill bottles by 2007.

FDA has made regulatory changes to make RFID implementation possible in pharmaceutical industry [did not elaborate]. FDA is not requiring RFID because thinks this will stifle innovation.

The FDA has the expectation that industry will deal with privacy issues; FDA will not directly regulate or be involved with privacy issues but leaves this up to industry.

Pharmaceutical industry must work out database issues: will it be distributed or centralized? Will participants in the supply chain have limited access to a small amount of information about the product or have access to a centralized database and therefore access to all information.

Of course one can just put fake pills in a bottle with a legitimate RFID tag. A solution to this problem: all particpants in supply chain must adopt RFID and be approved participants so there is never any moment that pill bottle is "out of sight."

Lee Tien of Electronic Frontier Foundation

The US government is moving into RFIDs in a very big way. Already there are several government mandates and more to come.

Examples of US government use of RFID
: Department of Defense has issued a mandate requiring all of its suppliers to use RFID tags by January 2005; the US-Canada Nexus card for border crossing (or alternative inspection program card) uses RFID; US government is discussing RFID for boarding passes at airports; Treasury Department is looking into putting RFIDs in currency as is the European Union (one European country is already doing this but which one we don't know); schools are considering RFID for tracking students (a charter school in Buffalo, NY is testing such a system).

What is special about government RFID mandates from commercial uses? There is a high degree of persistence since the tags will be intended for extended use (e.g. identifcation cards) and kill switches won't work. There will also need to be a pretty pervasive network of readers or sensors to collect RFID information.

Library use of RFID has been particularly troublesome to EFF. EFF wants to stop libraries from using RFIDs to tag books becasue there is no indication libraries are committed to using privacy safeguards. Obvious privacy question: with RFIDs one can associate individuals with the materials they read at a distance and without an individual's knowledge. This is a traditional reading privacy issue. EFF so far has been unsuccessful in stopping local libraries in San Francisco from moving forward to tag books which saves them time and labor. Libraries also put a friendly-face onto RFIDs or make them legitimate. If local libraries are using RFIDs, then how bad could they be?

Where is the public governance? Where is the public deliberative process in terms of fact gathering, privacy impact assessments, environmental assessments, technology assessments?

Must have a unified approach to RFID regardless of whether use is in private or public sector. There is a spillover use from government to business use and visa versa.

RFIDs represent a form of privacy pollution. When do we do something about the data privacy and tracking issues associated with RFID? Must be before mass implementation, must be now.

EFFs suggestions: create a civic legislative authorization with meaningful privacy safeguards and not merely appropriations or agency level processes before governments can use RFIDs; RFIDs should not be used by governments to eliminate anonymity (EFF consuls against the use of RFIDs in any IDs); law enforcement should not be able to track persons with RFID without stringent constitution safeguards; and public entities should not be allowed to have access to data collected by private industry using RFID (and visa versa) without constitutional safeguards.

Peter Sand of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

One job of the Privacy Office in DHS is to foster openness and transparency when government is using any technology for information gathering.

Two examples of US government use of RFID: To tag bags in airports for tracking purposes (or to make sure luggage goes where it is supposed to go); to facilitate travel at border crossings (the goal here is to get the appropriate level of information to the right people and to make the process more efficient so there is less wait time).