Future of Shopping - RFID gets under your skin

April 13 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

You enter the supermarket, grab an electronic shopping cart that recognizes you from your touch, and begin tossing items into pre-opened bags. The monitor on your “smart cart” not only displays each item, its price, and total amount spent; but also subtracts items returned to the shelf. Hold an item in your hand briefly and its description appears on the monitor.

When finished shopping, simply tap a “chipped” finger indicating which credit or debit card to use, or tap thumb for cash pay, which directs you to an automated cash machine – then out the door. On exit, select a security option to deactivate or encrypt all product chips, preventing evildoers from tracking you or your merchandise.

Though this futuristic scenario may still be a few years away, Albertson’s Chicago and Dallas area stores are experimenting with “Shop ‘n Scan”, a wireless scanner shoppers use to ring up groceries as they take them off the shelf. Eventually, Albertson’s wants to integrate this with other services that could one day become the precursor to a scenario like the one described above.

Milwaukee futurist David Zach envisions a bright future for RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification). “Chipped” tickets to local Miller Park sporting events, for example, allows management to recognize customers. Move to a more expensive seat during the game, and the system debits your account for the higher priced seat. (cont.)

“RFID”, Zach says, “is about where everything talks”. Clothes tell washing machines; “dry-clean me, don’t put me with colors, iron me, find me”. Mufflers say, “I have a leak”, a beer glass tells the bartender, “he’s had enough”, and a refrigerator tells the grocer what foods we need, and places a delivery order.

Tomorrow’s RFID systems will lower retailer’s labor costs, help customers shop more efficiently and enable industry to combat a $500 billion annual theft problem. Las Vegas’ Wynn Resort and Hard Rock Casino use “chipped” chips to reduce counterfeits. In addition, if a certain Beverly Hills store had been “chipped”, a famous actor would not have been caught shoplifting. Sensors would have detected the items and charged her credit card – no harm, no foul.

Implanted chips, which can easily be medically removed, provide foolproof identity of who we are. Florida-based VeriChip makes an FDA-approved chip about the size of a grain of rice that keeps Alzheimer’s patients from getting lost and prevents wrongful abductions of newborns from hospitals. Future implants could authorize ATM and store transactions without need to show cards or remember pin numbers.

Privacy advocates imagine abuse from this forward technology, but supporters believe future systems will aggressively guard safety and privacy. Experts say that because Moore’s Law increases computing power exponentially, dirt-cheap tags with fancy crypto features will soon be the norm. RFID will become safe and consumer-friendly as this exciting industry goes forward.

One thing for sure – RFID implants are paving the way towards a “magical future”. British scientist Kevin Warwick, with an arm already “chipped” looks forward to the time when a chip can be placed directly into his brain. “A personal goal”, he says, “is to access my short-term memory, and transmit those signals to the lab for analysis”. Go “magical future.”

How do you see this technology unfolding?

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