With the announcement that it would invest $250 million, IBM disclosed it would dedicate approximately 1,000 staff members to supporting new products and services in the field of radio frequency identification (RFID).
RFID technology has been around for years, said a report by U.K.-based Transport Intelligence but it has gained momentum recently driven by U.S. organizations such as Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense. The technology is clearly taking hold on a global scale given that Exel, the world’s largest third-party logistics company, recently announced it had joined EPCglobal, a collaborative organization that controls, develops and promotes RFID standards. “A common global standard will be essential if the tags are to be readable at all stages in multiple supply chains (even outside ‘closed loops’) and across a variety of geographies,” said Transport Intelligence.
In addition to the technical challenges of reading tags on metal products or products with high moisture content, there are political sensitivities that can limit the potential for the tags. “Civil liberties campaigners are keen that tags must be deactivated once they have left stores so that tracking is not possible post sale,” said Transport Intelligence. This would prevent the tags being used to facilitate the reverse logistics process, one of the areas for greatest potential savings.