The Human Barcode

An interesting area of focus that has gripped me since the beginning of my marketing studies this year is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. RFID makes use of radio wave transponders that exchange information between a reader and an electronic tag. This electronic tag can then be attached to an object to track it and identify it. Being an avid science fiction fan, RFID was first brought to my attention when I had heard stories of people receiving RFID implants into their bodies to communicate with electronic devices. It would appear that sci-fi is not that far from our current reality – some people are currently using the implant not only as a carrier of personal and medical information; but also to turn on their lights, adjust the temperature, access their front doors, car doors, and computers – and all this with a swipe of the hand. This near-field communication aids in contactless monetary exchanges wherein a customer can ‘grab and walk’ with regard to purchases made. In a certain night club in Barcelona, access is by RFID implant only and any sort of monetary exchange is reflected on the user’s account after their RFID tag is processed. Furthermore the technology is already being used in the marketing mix all over the world. In production control, supply chain management, and retail it is being used to track and identify individual goods from the point of manufacture through distribution, and from retailers all the way to the customer’s fridge (in the case of fast moving goods). The benefit of this process cuts labour costs and ensures a highly accurate method of stock keeping. The only problem that stands in the way of RFID world domination is the lack of standardisation between its manufacturers. If this is achieved, what would RFID tracking and identification mean for the future of consumers? Time will tell.

Two RFID tags embedded into human hands

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