Overview

This report summarizes the main points made in the presentations and subsequent discussions at a workshop on radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies held May 10-11, 2004, in Seattle, Washington, under the auspices of the Committee on Radio Frequency Identification Technologies of the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.

Radio frequency identification is a generic term for a set of technologies that use radio frequency (RF) to communicate data (a central component of which is an identity—specifically, a unique number). In its most rudimentary form, an RFID system consists of a tag, which includes the identity, attached to an object and a reader that can query the tag to find out what that identity is. The technology has been advancing over the past several years, and the application space has been broadening. RFID has been used for a range of activities from pinpointing the position of runners in marathons to tracking livestock to automating supply chains and assisting in inventory management for major retail vendors.

The workshop agenda and panel topics were developed by the steering committee to provide for a broad discussion covering not only the technical aspects of the technology but also its applications and, as importantly, its implications for society. Although a short workshop cannot do justice to the complexity of all these aspects of RFID technologies, it does serve as a good starting point for gaining an understanding of the basics of some of the major issues. Listed below are the topics addressed by panels at the workshop (see Appendix A for the names of the panelists):

  • Brief History and Overview of RFID Technology—Where We Stand

  • Business Case for and Against RFID Technologies

  • Where the Technology Is Going

  • RFID Infrastructure and Data Management Issues

  • Privacy, Social, and Cultural Concerns

  • RFID, Government, and Standards

  • Looking to the Future—Predictive and Speculative

Following are a few of the main themes arising from the workshop discussions and panel sessions. They do not constitute conclusions or findings of the committee; instead these themes incorporate ideas extracted from the workshop that came through strongly during discussions.



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Radio Frequency Identification Technologies: A Workshop Summary Overview This report summarizes the main points made in the presentations and subsequent discussions at a workshop on radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies held May 10-11, 2004, in Seattle, Washington, under the auspices of the Committee on Radio Frequency Identification Technologies of the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. Radio frequency identification is a generic term for a set of technologies that use radio frequency (RF) to communicate data (a central component of which is an identity—specifically, a unique number). In its most rudimentary form, an RFID system consists of a tag, which includes the identity, attached to an object and a reader that can query the tag to find out what that identity is. The technology has been advancing over the past several years, and the application space has been broadening. RFID has been used for a range of activities from pinpointing the position of runners in marathons to tracking livestock to automating supply chains and assisting in inventory management for major retail vendors. The workshop agenda and panel topics were developed by the steering committee to provide for a broad discussion covering not only the technical aspects of the technology but also its applications and, as importantly, its implications for society. Although a short workshop cannot do justice to the complexity of all these aspects of RFID technologies, it does serve as a good starting point for gaining an understanding of the basics of some of the major issues. Listed below are the topics addressed by panels at the workshop (see Appendix A for the names of the panelists): Brief History and Overview of RFID Technology—Where We Stand Business Case for and Against RFID Technologies Where the Technology Is Going RFID Infrastructure and Data Management Issues Privacy, Social, and Cultural Concerns RFID, Government, and Standards Looking to the Future—Predictive and Speculative Following are a few of the main themes arising from the workshop discussions and panel sessions. They do not constitute conclusions or findings of the committee; instead these themes incorporate ideas extracted from the workshop that came through strongly during discussions.

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Radio Frequency Identification Technologies: A Workshop Summary RFID technologies come in many variations and exhibit a range of capabilities; understanding the specifics of a particular RFID technology is important to determining appropriate uses and applications for it. In many ways, RFID is still in its infancy. Much experimentation and study must be done in order to achieve a deep understanding of its potential and implications. The cultural and social questions that arise from the use and deployment of RFID technologies include significant challenges in the areas of privacy and data collection. A summary of the panel discussions, together with background research and insights from the steering committee, is presented in this report. Chapter 1, “Technology and Applications,” addresses technical constraints, architecture, standards, and business applications. Chapter 2, “Society and Culture,” discusses some of the potential social and policy implications of RFID.