Shoplifters get bad rap and other RFID trivia

At an RFID event held at Alien Technology headquarters, Alien is one of the largest manufacturers of RFID chips, Dick Cantwell, vice president of Global Value Chain at The Gillette Company, told the audience that tagging individual products at the store level does not have a significant impact on what the retail industry euphemistically calls "shrinkage."

The reason for that is simple. Seventy-five to 80 percent of shrinkage occurs before the product ever gets to the shelf, according to Cantwell.

Cantwell knows this because Gillette puts RFID tags on almost all of their products and now Gillette can at least know when things go missing if not how they went missing.

If you think RFID is already about to explode wait until you hear what the Department of Defense[DOD] is about to do,[no pun intended] according to the assistant deputy Under Secretary of Defense Alan Estevez who was also at the conference.

The DOD, most likely within in 90 days, will get final approval to insert a new standard clause in all of their Defense Federal Acquisition contracts that says every, that means every, supplier to the DOD must include RFID tags on their products.

"Once this is done there will be a massive amount of RFID deployed," said Estevez.

And big volumes mean lower prices for RFID technology which in turn creates even more uses for the little tags.

Stavro Prodromou, CEO at Alien said prices now are just under 20 cents for the chip that is used in an RFID tag, that is if you order about a million tags. However,Cantwell at Gillette predicts that by 2012, RFID tags will be about a penny apiece.

Meanwhile Frank Collins, president of FrontWeb, a company that makes RFID tag packaging came up with one of the strangest requests I've ever heard for RFID use.

One unnamed company asked if FrontWeb could make conductive inks so that you could put an RFID-like tag in nail polish.

I guess the idea is if you get your nails polished with this stuff every time you pass a manicurist shop you'll get an alert. Of course it has to be opt in. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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