Radio ID tags get Microsoft
By Margaret Kane, CNET
Wednesday, June 11
2003 9:03 AM
Microsoft is enlisting in a venture designed to help develop
standards for radio frequency tags intended for use by retailers and
manufacturers to track goods.
The software maker said Tuesday that it will work with Auto ID, a joint venture of
the Uniform Code Council and EAN International, to develop commercial and
technical standards for radio frequency ID (or RFID) tags.
The tags, which are extremely small, could one day replace bar codes on
product packaging, using special microchips to communicate wirelessly
with computers when scanned. The scanning can be automated to track goods
as they flow through the supply chain--from manufacturers to distributors
to stores and eventually to customers. The tags currently cost around 50
cents apiece, and will need to come way down in price before their use
becomes practical on individual products, analysts say.
retailers are still pushing for them. Retailing giant Wal-Mart is expected
this week to ask its top 100 suppliers to begin using the chips to help
track inventory by 2005.
Privacy advocates have raised warning flags about the technology,
especially its inclusion in garments. The inventory-tracking chips are
expected to include a kill switch before they end up in products.
Auto ID will be developing standards for the Electronic Product Code
Network, which uses radio frequency and network systems to identify
products. Microsoft said its work will initially focus on supply chains in
the manufacturing and retail sectors. Further ahead, the company said it
will work with partners to develop RFID technology throughout the supply
Ed Rerisi, director of research at Allied Business Intelligence (ABI),
said the RFID market is more than just tags and readers and that there's a
huge opportunity for software and service companies to participate in the
"Microsoft is trying to address a vacuum in the back-end integration of
RFID inventory systems," Rerisi said.
ABI estimates that revenue from tags, readers and software and services
could add up to as much as $3 billion by 2008.
News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.