Identifying a need

A new initiative is encouraging government-level discussion on one of the fastest growing areas of technology. Ian Smith calls for a national dialogue on RFID.

Many applications in retail, manufacturing, services, and research across various sectors are currently using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and the industry is expected to show rapid growth over the next few years.

Because it is a key technology sector for Europe its expansion directly affects the competitiveness of the European Single Market, with 2006 a decisive year for the further development and deployment of the technology. Both the forthcoming consultation process of the European Commission on RFID and the key issues within the seventh EU Research Framework Programme show its significance for EU public policy.

the technology’s economic potential and social benefits are acknowledged by experts from academia, business, and politics. But there is growing social concern regarding a widespread use of RFID on consumer products. Against the backdrop of this discussion, The UK RFID Centre, has joined forces with the RFID Platform Nederland and the Informationsforum RFID in Germany to call for debates to begin at national government level.

On the European level, the debate among policymakers and the discussions with relevant stakeholders have intensified over the last months. It is necessary for Europe‘s governments to become actively involved in this discussion, while at the same time ensuring that a dialogue with stakeholders takes place at national level.

RFID can provide consumers with help in the protection of public health, safety, and security. Increasing food safety through tracking and tracing of livestock, providing easy access to product information, and fighting counterfeit pharmaceutical products are just some of the many improvements it offers.

But no technology can be implemented successfully without the acceptance of its users. Ensuring the protection of privacy and a secure use of the technology has great significance in this context, as do transparency and consumer education.

This is why the UK RFID Centre believes in strengthening general consumer acceptance by offering information on the technology and its applications, and by demonstrating the individual benefits for consumers.

RFID is an evolving competitive platform for industry, business and supply chain development. Such developments include important technology prospects, as well as key issues such as the socio-economic implications of exploiting the technology. Other important issues are the integration of RFID with communications, network, and positioning technologies as well as those with sensory and security capabilities.

These factors demonstrate wide-ranging opportunities for research and associated developments. These are important to the EU in achieving and maintaining a competitive stance in this highly significant sector of information and communications technology (ICT).

There is an urgent need for an EU programme of R& D specifically concerned with RFID. The UK RFID Centre will play its part, along with its mainland continental counterparts, in encouraging and developing these debates.

a comprehensive introduction to the technology, with streams for beginners and technicians and a wide range of case studies, is available on an AIM/DTI co-sponsored CD, RFID Compendium, free from

Ian Smith is chief executive of the UK RFID Centre, an independent association that aims to promote the successful introduction of RFID to all sectors in the UK