Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What can infinitesimally small RFID tags do for you?

One of this week’s articles discussed the benefits of the paper-thin nano-RFID tags. There exist other In 2006, Hitachi announced that it developed the world’s smallest RFID tag, called “Dust.”*  The tiny black speck in the below photo is Hitachi’s dust. 


The almost microscopic size of these new RFID tags makes them much more versatile than their larger counterparts.  The military, for instance, can “dust” surfaces with these tags to detect movement through the affected area.  Because of their size, an individual tag is practically undetectable.  Such a network of tiny RFID tags is an example of a “micro-electrical mechanical system” (MEMS).  MEMS encompasses a broad range of technology from accelerometers in cars to highly sophisticated inkjet printers.**  All MEMS share certain properties; they are all between one micrometer to one millimeter in size, and they generally contain some sort of CPU that transmits environmental data received from tiny sensors.** 

This technology has tremendous potential for the supply chain.  Through MEMS, real-time inventory processing is made very possible.  Furthermore, if each product has attached to it a tiny RFID tag, retailers can track not only the order in which customers pull items from shelves but also customers’ movements throughout their stores.  These data could allow retailers to improve their store layout. 

One Finnish retailer, Rautakesko, has already used RFID to optimize their store layout.***  While Rautakesko was able to improve the flow of customer traffic and to better steer customers to best-sellers, they had to develop a unique layout for each of their 320 stores.   

Are the benefits of stores designed for the idiosyncrasies of their customer bases’ worth the cost?


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