Industry Canada’s Binder says RFID brings up policy issues

Industry Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister may be enthusiastic about RFID’s potential, but don’t count on the Government to lead the charge for its adoption nationwide.

Speaking at an event hosted by GS1 Canada, a  non-profit organization that helps establish radio frequency identification (RFID) standards, Michael Binder touched briefly on RFID during a speech that touched on more broad ICT issues, including the state of e-commerce in Canada, spam troubles, and broadband access.

“It’s a free market. It’s not like (the Government) is going to go in and set up RFID for them. It’s up to them to go in that direction. We just provide the information,” said Binder in an interview following his remarks. “We’re moving into a network economy — there’s a mobile explosion going on.”

Binder said that ICT and networks are crucial to maintaining supply chains; he used the example of a Barbie doll comprised of many parts from different countries. “We couldn’t do this without supply chain technology,” he said.

RFID not only speeds up the supply chain, but can also grant peace of mind. “RFID gives trust — people feel comfortable knowing that their goods are ‘pre-claimed,’” said Binder.

While he acknowledges that “sensor networks are the next big thing,” he said that the widespread adoption of them raises public policy issues such as spectrum issues, privacy protection, data security, and system interoperability.

He seemed keen on getting RFID adopted on a more widespread level, but was vague when it came to specifics on the Government’s participation, saying “We’re doing our bit by trying to get support for applications, and we want to help GS1 if we can. We can help with handling this maze.”

Government participation can have an impact on widespread RFID adoption, said RFID Journal editor Mark Roberti. He said that the United States’ Department of Defence is starting to attempt to push RFID into its operations, and other departments want to benefit from the technology (including the Food and Drug Administration, who are required to track the origin and endpoint of foods). Regulations, such as the adoption of drug pedigrees and anti-terrorism laws, could also encourage RFID adoption, according to Roberti.

Binder said that the widespread use of RFID technology would make everything much more efficient and states that it is one of today’s most important emerging technologies. “It would be a productive way of keeping track of things and could reduce costs,” he said.

Binder said that the leaps and bounds of the internet was analogous to how RFID technology is being used from everything from cars that can tell you which hotel you’re passing to devices that can start up your dishwasher before you even get home, but was quick to stress the negatives-namely, security and privacy issues: “The mind boggles. Once it becomes more pervasive, there are some real implications.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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