When a company gets real and presents the "business problems" to a talented pool of workers, they'll respond with ways to get it done, on time, and under a realistic budget ("Immigration & Innovation," Feb. 23, 2004). If, however, the business problems are really just, "How are we going to get more bonuses this year?" maybe they're outsourcing the wrong people.
How many antennas will be needed in a store for a clerk to find the location of a given item via its RFID signature ("Data Avalanche," Feb. 16, 2004)? Given the relatively short range of passive tags, it would seem the walls would have to bristle with antennae if the system is to locate a size-8 dress that was left on the wrong rack by a customer.
Further, if a retailer shares a common wall with other retailers (as in a mall), how will RFID readers know to ignore the signals coming from the same stock-keeping units located on the other side of the wall?
I have no doubt that RFID will be of great value in the middle of the supply chain. However, when I see stories of a rosy future where one can walk out of a store having stuffed one's pockets with merchandise and be automatically charged for it (à la an IBM commercial from a few months ago), I get the sense there's more to it than people think.
VP, Third Wave International, Van Nuys, Calif.
Years ago we lived in an environment dominated by eight large computer manufacturers, and each had its own data-coding technique ("Keep Apps Simple As Possible, No Simpler," Feb. 16, 2004). Moving from one vendor to another, or even exchanging data between vendors, was a technological challenge.
The U.S. government finally laid down the law, and the result was the standard data coding we know as ASCII. The open standard made it easier to switch vendors and share data across vendors.
Today we have a similar situation and one that could benefit from data standardization. Creating and adhering to data standards is a challenge and obviously not a panacea, but it's a start. Maybe if more focus were placed on the fundamentals, many of the application problems would evaporate.
Larry J. Yarmchuk
Program Manager, TransAlta, Calgary, Alberta
Keep Security Simple
I've read a fair amount from Microsoft and others about Longhorn, and I'm not impressed. While Longhorn claims to add features that increase security, the greater complexity and questions about backward com- patibility with existing software are troubling.
The more complex and integrated a product, the more likelihood of failure. This stands in direct contrast to the increased security focus. If you compare competing operating systems focusing on security, simplification is the answer, not integration and complexity. Fifty million lines of code is not simplification.
Technology Specialist, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Encourage Wi-Fi Use
I've been discussing this same issue for a couple of years now ("Free-For-All Access To Wireless LANs," Feb. 9, 2004). The value-add of Wi-Fi for Starbucks isn't that it can make money but that it can sell more coffee. If the implementation is done right, both setup and maintenance costs vastly justify customer retention.
The biggest problem is that relatively few people use wireless broadband outside the office and home, and almost nobody uses wide area wireless data because of its cost and limited performance. Until users get hooked to "Internet easy, anywhere and anytime," it will be a tough business to sell third-generation services.
Alessandro Gatti President
TABLETmedia, San Francisco
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