using standard courier delivery
Transcripts of the first congressional hearing on a very exciting and a complex new technology application. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, as it is commonly known, is frankly a World War II-era technology that has begun to find new commercial and government application in just the last few years. In basic terms, the most common commercial application of RFID used radio waves to transmit data from a transmitting device called a ''tag'' to a scanning device called a "reader" which can be networked with a computer data base. These RFID tags can be attached to products and packaging individually. Readers are able to activate tags via radio signals and receive tag data without "line-of-sight" scanning, which is a limitation for the common barcode. In terms of the data embedded in the tags, work is being done to develop common standards known as the Electronic Products Code or "EPC" to create unique numerical identifiers for individual items. This would allow RFID readers to receive EPC data from tags on items and products that can be matched through a data base for identification and for other purposes. This is a global effort and, in theory, could lead to a seamless supply chain and logistics management in global trade. While still far off, such possibilities have led some to comment that because EPC identifies a product much like an IP address identifies a computer, RFID and EPC, in effect, are creating an internet for physical items rather than just for data. For manufacturing and retail applications, RFID technology is gradually being rolled out for tracking large bulk containers and pallets along the supply chain. And if technical and cost feasibility issues can be addressed, RFID readers, for example, could have the ability to read instantaneously not only pallets but also each unique individual product they contain. This could be done without having to unload any product contents, with inventory being updated in real time. Forecasting would become obsolete, shelves would always be stocked with the most popular brands, and cost savings would be passed on to the consumer. Now this is just one future possibility. Currently, RFID technology is being used in such diverse applications as automatic traffic tolls, and in anti-theft immobilizers on the latest automobiles. There also are plans to use RFID technology for counterfeit drug detection as well as tracking port cargo and hazardous substances for homeland security purposes. One possible future application that seems to generate excitement for anyone who has ever stood endless in line at the grocery store, involves using readers at checkout. In this application, readers placed at checkouts would allow customers to pass straight through with their RFID tagged items loaded in their shopping carts. Customer accounts would be automatically updated leaving them free to head straight for the parking lot - without even stopping for so much as a candy bar at the checkout or buying that little magazine.