Sunday, December 11, 2005

Keeping Tabs on IT

RFID (radio frequency identification) has been receiving increased press, commentary, and notoriety.

The idea behind the technology and its implementation was initially to utilize these "tags" or identification chips on highly sensitive extremely expensive items like military weapondry. In fact, the department of defense was RFIDs biggest sugar daddy simply because the technology was the most cost effective efficient way to secure safety on some of the most dangerous inventory in the world.

However, lets not limit brilliance. Dollars and cents still apply and as retailers like Walmart know all too well, the larger your inventory, warehouse, and shipments are the more relevant it would be to apply technology to maintaining security and accuracy. RFID is clearly the logical next step for national and international wholesaling and retailing inventory management. As a side note we can also add VeriSign and JP Morgan Chase which respectively have included RFID technologies for Retail Solutions and Credit Card encoding.
For good measure At&T (are they still around?) said they will begin to deploy RFID networks.

The newest addition to the growing number of RFID users is NASCAR. In 2006 Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. will be releasing their new "RFID-enabled tire-leasing program". If nothing else the increased and diversified usage of RFID tags broadens its marketing, concept, and reputation. So that the next bold statement to be made with RFID is not the tagging itself but, who is using it? and why. It would seem that anyone who intends to maintain organization into the future. Technology has always been a necessary evil in that most people would prefer to keep things simple and do things the "old fashion way" but urgency increases demand and demand increases popularity and popularity increases inspiration. And so on.. so that the RFID that was once a valued security based technology is now being sought after as an organizational tool and more.

This is a good thing but there are RFID critics who have other lights to shed on the use of this technology by the mainstream and even government. The fear of hype and that this intelligent and evolved technology will be used or rather misused for common issues concerning just plain irresponsible supervision (i.e. for missing pets, theft prevention, merchant processing, and even remote control recovery). I still think what is really being said is the same thing that has always been a theme in the IT world when it comes to exploitation of advance tools. The purpose for not popularizing technology was to minimize misuse. Obviously, more progress can be made in a controlled scientific environment. But the argument is if something can do some good give it to the people or the masses as the case may be.

My conclusion is, if one can afford to purchase this technology then one should be able to purchase and use it in a legal and constitutional manner to their hearts content. And hey, if I never lose my cell phone again in the process so much the better for me.

I don't believe that misuse of a technology will have any effect and real progress within educational and developmental environments. The worst case scenario is that it will simply annoy someone..

The next concern over RFID has to do with spying and constitutional rights to privacy vs. more effective law enforcement. Their again, if the solution solves the problem then lets move on. If the solution creates more problems than lets find a better solution or re-analyze the situation. In fact, several articles have been published regarding "spychips" RFID tags being used to spy on consumers personal shopping habits.

As stated by Bob Evans in his article "RFID Is already Proving Its Value, Business Advantage" wherein he comments,"..Some of you have felt those articles about RFID initiatives have all been a lot of nonsense because the chips are too expensive or there won't be any common standards or because RFID violates the privacy of those who even think about it or that RFID secrets on personal shopping will be fed into a massive GPS network designed by Enron and powered by the Ministry of Information.."
Likewise he went on to point out that,"..breakthrough business value that can be generated when RFID systems are used to enhance visibility, optimize supply chains, reduce latency, and eliminate paperwork and outdated and irrelevant processes.."

Back to the focus of IT as a development and deployment tool from a software perspective the reality is all to concentrated on developing fast reliable database systems to maintain the data embedded in these tags and of course be readily updated as inventory is moved.

SUN Java Systems, HP,Oracle, International paper, IBM and others will be working diligently to compete for the most effective, affordable, and easy to implement systems. Its a worthy goal much like all the kings knights vying for the hand of the youngest daughter. As long as there is a need to develop a perfected solution everyone who knows some code will be around to toss their hat in the ring or pull the sword from the stone (you know).

If you are afraid of what these changes will really mean, don't panic. RFID is a reasonably new solution that needs to become more sophisticated to really be put to use. My guess is we are at least 20 years from this goal really and the article by Laurie Sullivan "The Little Chip That Couldn't" strongly supports this fact. Where quoted mentionings of Middleware connectivity issues to the technology just not being there yet to the 4.2 billion estimated spending by 2009. Anyone who was truly afraid can sleep well knowing chances are the real change will have more to do with your grandchildren than you.

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