In an earlier article, Michael Caton (2004), also mentions the standardization issue.
In order for RFID technology to be a viable replacement for the currently used bar code system, standardization is vital. EPCgloble Inc. provides the standards of universal product code information in both bar codes and RFID chips. According to Caton, this company will then also work towards establishing standards for the standardization of RFID use in terms of a variety of applications in the supply chain. This will simplify the interaction between shipping companies, as well as the way in which goods are stored and shipped within each company.
The company also addresses privacy concerns by dictating how RFID data can be erased. Erasing this data is however the retailers responsibility. Mainly, concerns are that retailers may not take the responsibility of erasing individual item data after these are purchased by customers. This concern is legitimate and will have to be addressed fully by means of standardization.
Caton (2004) also describes the many potential uses and advantages of RFID technology for supply chain management. Indeed, he states that the technology can be useful not only for complex data organization systems, but also for simple tasks such as moving goods.
Specifically, Caton notes that RFID tags are either passive or active, with the former being lower in cost. Passive tags receive energy from the reader and transmit data to the reader again. Active tags have their own power supply, and simplifies the process considerably by transmitting data directly to the reader. These tags can also interact with other devices on the supply floor. Caton (2004) mentions that passive tags will probably be more commonly used on supply floors as a result of their lower cost.
Cost, as mentioned above, is a significant consideration, particularly for small businesses.
Caton concurs with Thryft in this matter; cost remains a barrier to the widescale implementation of RFID technology. Particularly, Caton mentions that testing and resources will be required to determine even the basic implementation of the technology.
Such resources may be impossible for small businesses to reach. This is an issue that is however being addressed by companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc., which focuses on helping companies to determine how to most cost-effectively implement RFID.
When taking the above concerns into account, it is important to also keep in mind that all developing technology is initially somewhat expensive and complex. However, with time, both prices and complexity levels lower as the technology becomes standardized and widely used. Rather than therefore right away demonizing RFID as mostly unviable in terms of any of these factors, it is also important to consider the potential advantages is offers.
According to Active Wave Inc. (2007), for example, the technology continues to evolve, making open architectures increasingly available. Logistical tracking and inventory is also facilitated by means of the sturdier nature of the technology than that of barcodes, which tend to malfunction after a certain amount of use. Furthermore, it is noted that there is no line of sight requirement between reader and tag, the database is portable, multiple tags can be read and written, and there is a much longer reading range than for bar codes.
In conclusion, RFID is reminiscent of all new technologies: there is a wide range of negativity and mistrust. I do believe however that the concerns and problems currently surrounding the issue will be eliminated with time as the technology evolves to suit the needs of its users. RFID technology offers significant advantages. In general, I believe that these outweigh any disadvantages, and indeed that the latter will eventually be completely eliminated. RFID technology should therefore be a serious consideration in all aspects of the supply chain.
Active Wave Inc. (2007). Technology: Advantages of RFID. http://www.activewaveinc.com/technology_rfid_advantage.php
Caton, Michael (2004, Apr. 19). RFID Reshapes Supply Chain Management. Eweek. http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/RFID-Reshapes-Supply-Chain-Management/
Thryft, Ann R. (2007, Jan). Supply chain Management Challenges RFID Technology. RTC Magazine. http://www.rtcmagazine.com/home/article.php?id=100786.