Imagine the following scenario: An individual can of your favorite cola is tracked throughout its entire manufacturing process. Then, it's tracked throughout the distribution process – from the plant to the shelf of your favorite store – where it sits until you pick it up and proceed to leave the store without visiting a cash register. You're not stealing; your credit card is automatically debited with the price of the soda. In addition, the quantity on hand in the store's inventory control system is reduced, a reorder transaction is sent to the cola distributor and soon another shipment of colas is on its way to the store. If you choose, the can may even let you know when you are near a recycling barrel for disposal. Imagine that all of this occurs without any human intervention.

Does this sound like science fiction or a scenario from the future? Actually, as you read this column, the technology exists and is being implemented by large consumer packaged goods and retail companies.

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