Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Tracking’s New Standard

A new agreement on compatibility will let radio-frequency ID tags keep track of one another.

In the past two years, radio frequency identification tags-silicon chips that carry ID numbers that can be read by computerized radio scanners-have become cheap and tiny enough that such retail behemoths as Wal-Mart are implementing them to track cases of products from warehouses to stores. But makers of these tags aren’t keeping good track of each other, making different kinds of tags and readers that aren’t all compatible, slowing their widespread adoption.

The tags’ communication woes could soon end, however. This fall the Auto-ID Center, an international corporate and university consortium headquartered at MIT, will announce the first hardware and software standards for such tags and their readers. These standards should greatly facilitate the use of the tags by, for example, allowing one reader to be used with different tags. In turn, says David Brock, codirector of the Auto-ID Center, wider adoption of the tags should slash costs from spoilage, theft, and miscounts. “It will be a revolution in the supply chain,” he says. “You can see where your items are at any time.”

In preparation for the new standards, companies are gearing up to produce readers and tags-which range in size from postage stamps to postcards, and cost as little as 10 cents apiece. Earlier this year, Alien Technology in Morgan Hill, CA, announced that Gillette would buy 500 million tags. And this summer, Wal-Mart-the world’s largest retailer-announced it is requiring 100 suppliers to put tags on all pallets of merchandise by 2005. With stores like the Gap, Target, Home Depot, and U.K.-based Tesco and Marks and Spencer making trial runs, radio tags are ready to make tracks.

Players in Radio Frequency Identification
COMPANY TECHNOLOGY/STRATEGY
Alien Technology
(Morgan Hill, CA)
Cheap, mass-produced tags; 500 million sold to Gillette
Matrics
(Columbia, MD)
Fast, reliable tags and readers for high-volume tracking; used in supply chains for consumer goods
Royal Philips Electronics
(Eindhoven, the Netherlands)
Tags used at the European retailer Metro Group
ThingMagic
(Cambridge, MA)
Universal tag readers

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.