We all know about the Internet and cyberspace. Now how about an Internet of things in real space? Imagine a world where commodities — from Coke cans and car tires to CDs and blazers — can communicate with computers over radio frequencies.

Imagine a world where there is no more guessing how much

material is in your supply chain or on your shelf.

According the Auto-ID Centre — a partnership of 87 global companies and three universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — it’s a concept not far away thanks to radio frequency identification (RFID).

RFID tags — which are about four times the size of a postage stamp, and contain a computer chip and antenna — are a natural evolution of the ubiquitous bar code. Their main advantage is they automatically feed computers information they need.

Their biggest disadvantage is price. It costs a penny to add a bar code to a product, compared to 40 cents for an RFID tag.

The good news is RFID technology is expected to come down in price to about five cents by 2006, says Ron Babin, associate partner in the strategy and business architecture practice of Accenture Inc. in Toronto. “”We’re trying to figure out the business value of this technology,”” says Babin, whose company is affiliated to the Auto-ID Centre. “”RFID requires a big hardware investment up front, but the resulting process efficiencies can be significant.””

Accenture predicts RFID technology will save the packaged good, retail and transport industries billions of dollars each year. Few companies have adopted the technology, but the Star City Casino in Sydney, Australia has put it to use managing 80,000 uniforms and costumes valued at U.S$1.8 million.

RFID tags have helped reduce labour and cleaning costs, and resulted in fewer lost garments at the casino.

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