IT Confidential: Tech Takes Strange Turns: RFID, Wi-Fi, IM - InformationWeek
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John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Tech Takes Strange Turns: RFID, Wi-Fi, IM

Executives in the pharmaceutical industry recently met with Food and Drug Administration officials about the possibility of using radio-frequency ID tags and electronic product codes (known as EPCs) on container labels to combat counterfeit drugs. Makers and distributors of medicine are frustrated with drug counterfeiters, a slippery form of lowlife who can be hard to catch and hard to prosecute. One ray of hope is that keeping track of prescription medicine with RFID tags and EPCs through the supply chain could make counterfeiting much tougher. Jon Borschow, chairman of the Health Distributors Management Association, maintains that EPCs are the only way the industry will be able to verify the "pedigree" of a drug through the system. The FDA launched a major initiative in July against drug counterfeiting. While the industry has discussed RFID and electronic product codes with the FDA before, and the agency has acknowledged the technology's potential, the FDA hasn't taken an official position on it. But the execs were encouraged by the response during the FDA meetings, says Dan Rizotto, VP of global customer initiatives for Johnson & Johnson.

Despite bullish predictions of wireless networking in the enterprise, the hottest hot spots for Wi-Fi use are in the home. How do I know? First, research firm IDC recently released results of a survey of 2,500 members of its Mobile Advisory Council that found that more than a third of respondents use an 802.11 LAN at home while only 27% use Wi-Fi in the workplace. But I have a better gauge: The Wal-Mart test. U.S. Robotics announced last week that it would start selling its Wi-Fi technology--the 802.11g Turbo line of products--in Wal-Mart stores. "Teaming up with Wal-Mart demonstrates U.S. Robotics' commitment to bringing easy-to-use, value-priced, high-performance networking solutions to the home and small-business user," said Ray Kracik, director of North American sales, in a statement. When it hits Wal-Mart, it's hit middle America.

Gossip, sexual advances, and griping are among the chief uses of instant messaging in the workplace, according to results of a survey released last week of U.S. and U.K workers with access to IM applications. According to Blue Coat Systems, only 27% of U.S. workers and 11% of U.K. workers use IM exclusively for business purposes. Blue Coat, which conducted the 300-person survey, offers content filtering, instant-messaging control, and virus scanning, among other services. According to Blue Coat, 40% of respondents admitted "using IM to conspire with colleagues during conference calls," and 64% admitted to "exchanging negative comments about management."

Hey, that's work-related communication! You have to stay in touch with the feelings of your fellow workers, and what better way than over the backyard fence of IM. When it comes to gossip, E-mail just isn't intimate enough--except for industry tips, so send them to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the limitless potential of RFID, or the convenience of wireless networking at home, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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