Concentrating on the management of large units such as cases of goods and pallets of cases is a good place to start, he said.
"Ten years from now, who knows," he said.
To illustrate the promise of RFID and EPC technology to the supply chain, VeriSign purchased 2,000 four-inch, RFID-equipped pallets, similar to those on which goods are shipped worldwide, Brendsel said.
The company will distribute them to show attendees, who can scan them at the booths of different technology vendors such as IBM and Sun. At the end, attendees will be able to review the exact path the pallet took around the show floor and see what time it passed through each booth, he said.
Ashton sees the Symposium in historic terms, saying that the development of the EPCTM Network marks a shift from the systems of the past 50 years in which computers process information entered by humans. Through the wide deployment of EPC and RFID technology, the next 50 years will be about computer sensing.
Helping to set the "visionary" tone, 3Com Corp. founder Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, and Internet luminary Esther Dyson will give keynote speeches at the Symposium, according to Auto-ID Center.
Like the Internet, use of the EPC Network will grow imperceptibly, but will eventually become an indispensable part of modern life, just like e-mail, Ashton said.
Widespread adoption of the technology might have to wait until RFID tags can be mass-produced cheaply and efficiently, he said.
In the meantime, the presence of large technology companies at the first-ever EPC Symposium is a good sign, he said.
"It's indicative that everybody is taking EPC seriously," he said.