Radio Frequency IDentification, a.k.a. high-tech tagging

A technology that was initially developed to track cattle, it is now the cutting edge in merchandise, parcel, and baggage tracking. Unlike clunky sensomatic clips that set off alarms in department stores, RFID comes in the form of a small label that serves as a portable database, picking up stored information sent by radio waves. This technology is slated to allow customers to walk out of a library or department store without stopping to check-out a book or pay for a product, because the processing will be handled behind-the-screens. When discount store giant Wal-Mart announced in 2005 that to reduce out-of-stock products by providing visibility into the location of goods with RFID tags, RFID officially entered the mainstream.

Technically speaking, RFID is a technology that incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to identify an object (or animal or person). Also known as dedicated short range communication (DSRC), RFID is seen as an alternative to the bar code. The main advantage of RFID is that it does not require direct contact or "line-of-sight" scanning. An RFID system consists of three components: an antenna and transceiver (usually combined into one reader) and a transponder (the tag). The antenna uses radio frequency waves to transmit a signal that activates the transponder. When activated, the tag transmits data back to the antenna. The data is used to notify a logic controller that an action should occur. The action could be as simple as raising an access gate or as complicated as interfacing with a database to carry out a monetary transaction. Low-frequency RFID systems (30 KHz to 500 KHz) have short transmission ranges (generally less than six feet). High-frequency RFID systems (850 MHz to 950 MHz and 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz) offer longer transmission ranges (more than 90 feet). In general, the higher the frequency, the more expensive the system.

Also referred to as "high-tech tagging" here are a few examples of RFID in use.

In Japan, RFID has made the jump from grocery store to schoolyard. Every time a fourth grader passes through the Elementary School's front gate, a small plastic tag tucked inside his or her backpack beams a message to a computer in the office to log every time a student enters or leaves. Moments later their parents receive confirmation by e-mail.

In the U.S., motorists with prepaid RFID cards zip through traffic toll gates without stopping and airlines plan to adopt an RFID baggage-handling system at every US airport.

Coming to a golf pro shop near you, a new form of advertising is taking place via RFID tags. If you see a high-definition TV with snippets of original content playing (such as tips from PGA pros and club news) then you may notice that once you pick up a piece of gear for a closer look, the television will start playing an ad for that particular item. This is because the RFID tag cues the TV to play the ad.

RFID technology continues to get personal; the state of Virgina is looking at the idea of embedding RFID chips in driver's licenses.

In Mexico, the attorney general said he and his staff were getting microchip implants for access to secure areas of their offices. Oh, my! The same is true for employees featured in the "Big Brother" documentary.

View the CNBC documentary by clicking on the link below!

NetLingo Classification: Net Technology