Sunday, January 25, 2009

Food Poisoning Outbreaks Could Boost RFID

Via ComputerWorld -

Recent national outbreaks of E.coli and salmonella poisoning are likely to prompt government mandates requiring that food products be tracked throughout their life cycles — and that could prove to be a boon for radio frequency identification technologies.

The new mandates would come just as other first-generation track-and-trace tools start to spread through the pharmaceutical industry, which was the first to face such government mandates, analysts said.

So far, bar-code systems and pen-and-paper processes are the most popular drug-tracking tools, but observers expect RFID to emerge as the long-term technology of choice in both the pharmaceutical and food industries.

Roy Wildeman, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., suggested that the advantages of RFID — such as ease of use, the ability to track individual products packed in crates and the ability to scan from significant distances — have so far been overshadowed by the technology's high price tag.

According to a Forrester study, a multibillion-dollar manufacturer can expect to spend $2 billion to $3 billion in start-up costs to implement RFID.

And once the technology is ready for use, companies face significant annual costs, Wildeman added, noting that the average price of 19 cents per RFID tag could mean that it would cost tens of millions of dollars per year to tag millions of items.

Nonetheless, "I think you'll see a cascading wave of [RFID] adoption in the [pharmaceutical and food and beverage] sectors, especially with growing mandates," Wildeman said. "It will be about public sentiment about food-related illnesses. I think that will bring pressure for the government to take action."

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