Jeffrey K. Brecht, Ph.D.
Horticultural Sciences Department
University of Florida
What is RFID?
RFID is a method of identifying unique
items using radio waves. A reader
communicates with a tag, which holds
digital information (e.g., a serial number) in
RFID is like a bar code reader, but the
reading is done remotely.
– RFID doesn’t require ‘line of sight’.
A carton tag
How Does RFID Work?
The microchip, attached to an antenna,
picks up signals from and sends signals to
Each tag contains a unique serial number,
the Electronic Product Code (EPC).
The antenna enables the chip to transmit
the identification information to the reader.
How Does RFID Work?
The reader converts the radio waves
returned from the RFID tag into a form
that can then be passed on to computers
that can make use of it.
Once the EPC is retrieved from the tag, it
can be associated with dynamic data such
as from where an item originated or the
date of its production.
What’s the Point of RFID?
– More accurate, immediate (i.e., ‘real time’)
the location of items
the history of items
the number of items in the supply chain
Cost savings come from automating what
is now a manual, not too accurate task.
Real Time Inventory Visibility
Sunpass toll collection is an RFID system
British Airways uses RFID to track luggage
Livestock tracking (ear tags) in Australia
Wal Mart, Target, and the Dept. of
Defense are requiring their suppliers to
have RFID tags on all pallets and cases
they deliver by 2005
RFID has been used in libraries for several
– As a security solution
– For inventory management
– For self-checkout
– For automated return systems.
The Eugene Public Library in Oregon has sorters
and conveyer belt systems that deposit returned
books into specified bins that are linked through
an RFID number to specific sections of the
Retailers envision scanners placed on
shelves to speed restocking, and installed
at building exits to prevent theft.
Food producers predict faster and more
targeted recalls of defective or unsafe
Hospitals imagine using RFID tags to help
prevent medical errors by, for example,
transmitting the correct medicine dosages
How is RFID Being
By EPCglobal, a joint venture between
EAN International and the Uniform Code
EPCglobal is leading the development of
industry-driven standards for the
Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network to
support the use of RFID.
Why Do Your Clients Care
Privacy Concerns – A Brave New World,
1984 (Big Brother), etc…
RFID systems enable tagged objects to
speak to electronic readers over the
course of a product's lifetime – all the way
to the consumer’s home? Yikes!
Will it happen??
RFID technology's primary use is for
carton and pallet tracking – item-level
tracking of consumer products isn't likely
to happen for many years. $$$
A "kill" command is included in the EPC
specifications, so the RFID tags will be
permanently disabled at checkout.
RFID signals can be read from only 10 to
15 feet away, maximum, and are reflected
Consider the costs:
– Why would companies invest in the
infrastructure needed to read RFID tags
– Their competitors could read the same tags.
Read an opinion piece, “RFID SECURITY
SCARES IGNORE FACTS”
Are There any Health Risks
Associated with RFID and
No, RFID uses the low-end of the
electromagnetic spectrum. The waves
coming from readers are no more
dangerous than the waves coming to your
Some RFID systems use microwave
RFID doesn’t work around metal and
Tracking metal products or those with
high water content is problematic
– Metal containers reflect radio waves
– Produce, meat, fish, and dairy products have
high water content and absorb radio waves
Research at the UF/IFAS RFID Lab (with
Franwell) is addressing this issue
Combining RFID tags with sensors
– Temperature sensors
– Biological sensors
The same tags used to track items moving
through the supply chain may also alert
staff if they are not stored at the right
temperature, if meat has gone bad, or
even if someone has injected a biological
agent into food.