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More RFID Development In Security Than Inventory Tracking

The use of electronic tags is often discussed for inventory control, but more developers are applying the technology to security applications, a survey released Wednesday showed.
The use of electronic tags is often discussed for inventory control, but more developers are applying the technology to security applications, a survey released Wednesday showed.

Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) has been in the spotlight since Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, said last year it would require some of its largest suppliers to be ready to track goods using RFID tags in 2005. Other large retailers have made similar announcements since, including Albertsons and Target.

Nevertheless, a survey of 450 developers in Europe, Asia, North America, and Latin America found 3 in 10 using RFID in security applications, and only 2 in 10 using it in inventory-control software, Evans Data Corp. said. The respondents were all building applications or services that use wireless technology.

The remainder of the developers was about evenly split in their use of RFID in applications for tracking industrial equipment, shipping, and vehicle identification.

The results surprised Evans Data analyst Jason Kaczor, who led the project. "My assumption originally was that inventory tracking would be the highest use for RFID," he said.

The results, however, indicate that organizations remain intensely security conscious since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Security is of utmost importance to organizations, and it's also a growing area of business opportunity," Kaczor said. "

Although the survey did not ask developers to describe their projects, Kaczor believes RFID tags are being used increasingly in badges used by employees to access areas within large organizations. Government, medical institutions and businesses often have a need to authenticate employees each time they enter a different facility.

RFID can also help organizations track the whereabouts of individuals, so they can be found quickly--a capability particularly useful, for example, in dealing with doctors in a hospital.

RFID for inventory control also lags behind security because of the cost, Kaczor said. The cost for each RFID tag is under 10 cents, but that's still far more expensive than bar codes, which cost a fraction of a penny. A company, depending on it size, can use millions of tags.

"Right now, the cost outweighs the benefit," Kaczor said. "But as the cost comes down, inventory control usage will go up."