Weber Marking Systems, for example, is launching what it calls Initiative 2004, a programme aimed at providing the systems and supplies that will help companies meet RFID compliance standards.
"Wal-Mart was the first to set a deadline for RFID compliance," said Brad Weber, president of Weber Marking Systems. "The Department of Defense was next (also for 2005), and we feel that many other retailers and supply chain operations are bound to follow suit. We pledge that our Initiative 2004 will ensure that our customers will be ready."
RFID is the latest development in automatic identification and data capture technology. Much of the initial growth of RFID is expected to be linked to 'smart label' technology, which combines the benefits of bar code labelling with the functionality of RFID by embedding an ultra-thin RFID tag in the label material that will transmit a range of product data.
According to Weber, the company has already initiated its effort to ensure that equipment like label printers and printer-applicators will be available to encode data on RFID tags, as well as produce printed bar codes, text and graphics on the same smart labels.
The food and drink industry is already adopting the new technology. And some experts believe that RFID will eventually be used to track every domesticated animal. Indeed, the current BSE crisis in the US has generated renewed interest in RFID for tracking cattle and other livestock, and a number of schemes have recently been implemented across the globe.
In Australia, for example, the National Livestock Information Scheme has just approved tags and readers for use by beef producers and the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) recently selected a supplier of RFID tags for use on cattle in Canada. Tagging is mandatory in Canada.
"RFID sounds complicated, but it's very exciting, too," said Weber. "It promises to provide a multi-functional means of capturing data and managing inventories throughout the supply chain. We're working very hard to make certain that we'll be prepared to assist companies in their efforts to comply with all new and emerging RFID standards."
A basic RFID system consist of three components: an antenna or coil, a transceiver with decoder and a transponder electronically programmed with unique information. The antenna emits radio signals to activate the tag and read and write data to it. Antennas are the conduits between the tag and the transceiver, which controls the system's data acquisition and communication.