Get ready for the biggest manufacturing, distribution and retail revolution since the net
10 billion wireless electronic tags are about to impact manufacturing, distribution and retailing now that Walmart, Tesco and Pentagon are requiring suppliers to tag products - raising sensitive questions about privacy, civil liberties and human rights
Radio bar-codes embedded into billions of different things and organisms which have value, including animals and possibly some human beings - sending out radio signals about what they are, where they are, and possibly what they are doing or how their bodies are working. Like mobile phones, they cannot communicate to each other direct, but can exchange information via send / receive base stations.
Within the current decade more of these RFIDs will be made each year than there are people alive on earth. Once prices fall to less than 2 cents per tag, retail usage will explode with anything from 20 - 40 billion tagged products sold a year.
RFIDs mean that a retail outlet can watch goods going out of the door and know who is taking them, even which card to charge. RFIDs prevent theft, help guarantee quality, provide absolute 100% precision about what stock remains in the food store and when products are close to sell-by dates. RFIDs mean I can pay for products and services ranging from bottles of wine to travel tickets, using a card that never leaves my pocket.
At the same time, expect huge emotive discussions about personal privacy, and data leakage, with demands that next-generation RFIDs contain a reliable switch which can be turned off by a consumer after a product is bought. Pressure groups will campaign successfully in some nations against data-leakage, where all kinds of information could theoretically be transmitted about an individual without their knowledge or consent, by tags in their shirts, shoes, gloves, belts, car seats, credit cards and so on, in response to unscrupulous use of scanners which could be as easy to conceal as mobile phones.
Take hold of the future or the future will take hold of you.
* Dr Patrick Dixon is Chairman of Global Change Ltd, author of Futurewise. He has recently been ranked as one of the 50 most influential business thinkers alive today (Thinkers50 / Bloomsbury Publishing).http://www.globalchange.com - 5 million unique visitors