Radio frequency identification (RFID) is an increasingly pervasive technology that's generating enormous efficiencies for companies of all sizes in a wide range of vertical niches. RFID is proving so effective that it will soon enable familiar functions in everyday life, a group of business leaders asserted.

Fueled by new mandates at the Pentagon and major retailers such as Wal-Mart, more and more organizations are implementing RFID, an innovative supply chain method that holds great promise but raises questions among managers who are eager to adopt it. To answer those questions, the RFID industry's top analysts and solution providers recently met in Chicago for a panel discussion that was hosted by Larstan Business Reports.

RFID systems can be used anywhere along the supply chain on nearly anything - from clothing to food to animals to military weaponry. RFID is applicable anytime that a unique identification system is required. The tag can convey information as simple as the location of a product on a warehouse pallet, or as complex as instructions on how to assemble an automobile.

During the panel's no-holds-barred debate over RFID and its applicability, a consensus quickly emerged on several topics, notably: users must make a business case for adoption of RFID; implementation requires upfront assessment, to tailor the solution to the user's actual needs; any solution must first win over corporate-wide stakeholders; and sophisticated middleware is needed to interpret the massive streams of data generated by RFID readers.

Arguably the most compelling point, on which all panelists agreed, held that RFID was evolving to where it would eventually become a household presence. A few cited the historical analogy of cell phones and their unexpectedly rapid mainstream acceptance. The notion was broached that RFID will become more pervasive in common life, but most consumers won't realize that the technology they're taking for granted is RFID.

Panelists cited the highway "Speed Pass" as a salient example of mainstream RFID technology that successfully works on a mass scale, behind the scenes. Another example: more than 50 million pets worldwide are tagged with RFID chips. RFID already is deeply embedded in a host of markets, including retail, pharmaceuticals, automotive manufacturing, aerospace assembly and livestock management.

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