Indian body to focus on responsible radio tagging

Monday, 15 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: How would you feel if your underclothes kept broadcasting to the world where you were?

A new Indian trade body would take up this worrisome prospect arising from buyers' innocence to varied use of radio tagging technology -- because of which they might forget to remove the tags exposing themselves -- among other concerns.

The Radio Frequency Identification Association of India (RFIDAI) would also try to help the industry avoid the pitfalls that its counterparts in the US face as a recent survey revealed, said Bimal Sareen, RFIDAI president.

Though radio tagging of merchandise to ensure authenticity and to efficiently manage supply chain is the preliminary use of RFID technology, its other potential uses have far-reaching implications, experts point out.

RFID tags could replace the barcodes as small obscure stickers helping producers track merchandise through a supply chain. They are already in use in car anti-theft systems, pet tracking and library book tagging, according to them.

RFID tags could be "active" if they have an inbuilt power source enabling them to be read from far or "passive", responding only to a burst of radio signals to give out an identity code for close-range tracking.

Market research group Venture Development Corp's (VDC) survey of users expressed concern over the failure of the existing systems to handle the amount of data generated by merchandise radio tagging.

"Our priority is in promoting the technology with stress on its responsible use," Sareen told IANS.

India's fledgling radio tagging industry is collaborating with its global counterparts to evolve best practices and rationalise the use of the technology with far-reaching implications, he said.

"We are in touch with other technology bodies around the world and are getting a great response," Sareen said, brushing aside worries about improper use of technology. "We are bullish about the prospects of the technology."

"India stands at the threshold of a great revolution," added S. Gopalakrishnan, the Infosys Technologies deputy chief executive.

"Not only does RFID afford the opportunity to build on our (India's) proven software service strengths, we now also have the opportunity to leverage our high level of engineering skills and lower cost manufacturing capabilities to be at the forefront of a virtually new segment of IT hardware," he said.

The newly formed not-for-profit RFIDAI has forged relationships with its counterparts in the US, Japan and European Union to sort out the problems that the technology's stakeholders face. The organisation has also approached the government for allocating a radio spectrum for the industry's use in India, officials said.

India's premier IT body Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies) has lent its weight to RFIDAI in its attempt to form standards for the technology's use.

RFID is an area of great potential as it includes next generation product codes for use by manufacturers, distributors and service providers for tagging products, said Kiran Karnik, the Nasscom president.

With several global retail chains like Wal-Mart plumping for the technology, it is bound to see a global surge in the coming years, they say.

With the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) giving the nod for an RFID chip developed by Digital Angel Corporation for implanting inside human body for medical use, civil rights groups across the US and European Union have voiced concern over possible privacy breach.

Britain has begun using RFID on driving licence that could even lead to satellite tracking of its holders, rights groups point out.

Digital Angel has said its rice grain-size chip implant has uses beyond healthcare and could replace passport and credit card in the long run with tremendous privacy implications, they believe.

The US survey had said many companies competing to use the RFID technology were ill prepared to handle the massive amounts of data that accumulated as the marked products passed through tracking devices.

In the survey of end users of RFID technology, nearly 60 percent said they were "highly concerned" about data quality from the use of the technology and about 55 percent said they were worried about data synchronization.

Many respondents pointed out they had difficulty extending RFID pilots, especially in the consumer goods, pharmaceutical and military supply chains, because corporate legacy systems could not easily handle the unprecedented amount of information.

Some pilot projects, they said, were missing 30 percent or more of the tags read, producing a high volume of false negatives, according to the study.

Source: IANS
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