More and more businesses are exploring how they can use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to streamline their internal operations, supplementing its now well-established use in tracking items traveling through supply chains. The continuing deployment of this rapidly developing technology suggests that RFID-related privacy issues will command attention during the coming year.

Use of RFID to Streamline Internal Procedures 

2007 saw enhancements to RFID data security and encryption and the increased use of the technology in the office environment to control access to buildings or data rooms, as well as to track both electronic data and paper files. Manufacturers have overcome challenges with RFID deployments, making them more reliable for access control solutions than competing technology solutions, such as magnetic stripe cards and fingerprint ID systems. Today, many hotels and resorts are issuing RFID-enabled wristbands to allow guests to purchase items and access their rooms. Use of RFID in this arena is expected to grow.

Improvements in Product-Tracking Solutions

RFID equipment makers have made advancements in reading tagged items, such as metal containers and liquids, that present challenging RF propagation issues. Also, some manufacturers using RFID technology to track products experienced problems when RFID readers for products being loaded into trucks near loading docks were identifying products that were still on shelves in the warehouse. Use of RFID will continue to expand as the technology continues to improve and the cost of tags and associated hardware continues to drop.

Perhaps More Privacy Concerns

The nexus between RFID technology and privacy regulation has made RFID deployment a challenge both for developers and users of the technology. Concerns remain that RFID devices will be used to track items beyond their intended use. Expanding RFID use into new areas predictably will produce renewed expression of such concerns. RFID raises privacy issues similar to those involved with other personal tracking technologies in common use today, such as cell phones, credit cards, and the Internet: (i) what data about the user is collected; (ii) who maintains the data; and (iii) who can access the data? Despite the potential for misuse, many technology experts maintain that the advantages of RFID technology can be realized while simultaneously addressing privacy concerns.