Pervasiveness of RFID in Indian Businesses – Opportunities, Challenges and Strategies

Pervasiveness of RFID in Indian Businesses – Opportunities, Challenges and Strategies


RFID is not a new concept. RFID tags consist of silicon chips and an antenna that can transmit data to a wireless receiver. With the field of wireless reading device, hundreds of tags can be read in a second. RFID tags are classified into active and passive tags. Former are costly ranging from Rs. 65/- per tag and the latter are cheap in the range of Rs. 25-30 per tag. Passive tags cannot give complete data rather brief. RFID has pervasive applications and in this paper the author discussed the potential applications of the technology in different fields of business and also suggests certain approaches to tap the maximum potential.


1. Concept of RFID and its origins

2. How RFID works and classification.

3. How different RFID is from Barcode

4. Current applications and potential uses of RFID

5. Factors and Adverse affects for the Adoption of RFID technology.

6. Strategies for the rapid adoption of RFID.

7. Conclusion

Introduction: Concept of RFID and its origin

Radio frequency Identification (RFID has been around since World War II). The technology used in RFID has actually been around since the early 1920’s. A much more related technology, the IFF transponder, went into operation in 1939 and was routinely used by the British in the World War II to identify airplanes as friend and foe. RFID became reality after 3 years of advances in many different fields. In simple, RFID tags consist of silicon chips and an antenna that can transmit data to a wireless receiver. Therefore the radio Id tags do not receive line-of-sight for reading that is the RFID tagged product need not be held close to the scanner to read the data of a RFID tag. Within the field of a wireless reading device, it is possible to automatically read hundred of tags a second.

How RFID works and the classification

The technology in RFID is a system and consists of different components such as, tags, tags readers, tag programming stations, circulation readers, sorting equipment, and tag inventory wand. The purpose of a RFID system is to enable data to be transmitted by a portable device called a tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. The data transmitted by the tag may provide identification or location information or specifics about the product such a price, color, date of purchase, etc. The use of RFID in tracking and access applications first appeared during 1980’s. RFID quickly gained attention because of its ability to track moving objects. As the technology is refined, more pervasive and invasive uses of RFID tags are in the works.

In a typical RFID system, individual objects are equipped with a small, inexpensive tag. The tag contains a transponder with a digital memory chip that is given a unique electronic product code. The interrogator, an antenna packaged with a transceiver and decoder, emits a signal activating the RFID tag so it can emit a signal activating the RFID tag so it can read and write data to it. When RFID tag passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader’s activation signal. The reader decodes the data encoded in the tag’s integrated circuit (silicon chip) and the data is passed to the host computer for processing.

RFID tags can be classified into passive or active tags. Passive tags do not have their own power supply. The minute electrical current is induced in the antennas by the incoming radio frequency scan provides enough power for the tag to send a response. Due to power and cost concerns. The response of a passive RFID tag is brief – typically just an ID number. Lack of an on-board power supplies means that the device can be quite small: commercially available products exist that can be embedded under the skin. As of 2005, the smallest such devices commercially available measured 0.4mm x 0.4mm, which is thinner than a sheet of paper; such devices are practically invisible. Passive tags have practical read ranges that vary from about 10mm up to about 6 meters. Active RFID tags, on the other hand, must have a power source and may have longer ranges and larger memories than passive tags as well as the ability to store additional information sent by the transceiver. At present, the smallest active tags are about the size of a coin. Many active tags have practical ranges of tens of meters and a battery life of up to several years.

How different RFID is from Barcode

Many retailers and manufacturers have been using bar codes. These are scanned manually and read individually. In the case of RFID tags, it is a small object similar to adhesive sticker and is attached to or incorporated in the product. RFID tags work better and more data can be collected and stored in the RFID micro ship. Further RFID tags cold identify exactly which box it is, which is lacking in barcode system.

Current and potential uses of RFID

In US the RFID frequencies are used: 125 kHz (the original standard) and 134.5 kHz) the international standard). Low frequency RFID tags are commonly used for animal identification, beer keg tracking and automobile key- and -lock, antitheft systems. Pets are often embedded with small chips so that they may be returned to their owners. High frequency RFID tags are used in library books or bookstore tracking, pallet tracking, building access control, airline baggage tracking and apparel item tracking. These are high frequency used in identification badges, replacing earlier magnetic stripe cards.

The American Express Blue credit cards now include a high frequency RFID tag, a feature American Express calls commercially in pallet and containers tracking, and trucks and trailer tracking in shipping yards. Microwave RFID tags are used in long range access control for vehicles.

In January 2003, there was a plan of testing RFID transponders embedded into tiers. Manufactures offered RFID enabled tires to carmakers. Their primary purpose is tire tracking in compliance with the United States Transportation’s, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act). Cards embedded with RFID chips are widely used as electronic cash Octopus cards in Hong Kong is the best example. Similar type is also used in Netherlands and United Kingdom. Implantable RFID ‘chips’, being used and contemplated for humans as well. Applied Digital solutions proposes their chips “mine under-the-skin format” as a solution to identify fraud, secure, building access, computer access, storage of medical records, anti-kidnapping initiatives and a variety of law- enforcement applications. Barcelona and Spain use an implantable verichip to identify their VIP customers, who in turn use it to pay for drinks. The Mexico city police department has implanted approximately 170 of their police officers with the verichip, to allow access to police databases and possibility track them in case of kidnapping.

Thus RFID adoption is in early stages worldwide and India is not far behind the global market. Chitale Dairy Farm located at Bhilawadi, which produces more than 60 million liters of milk annually. This farm uses RFID technology to effectively track the feeding, milking and breeding information relating to buffaloes.

The potential uses of RFID in Indian Environment can be discussed as follows:

1) RFID technology to mange pilgrims queues especially in Tirupathi and other busy devotional centers on special occasions such a ‘ Brahmotsavas’ in Tirupathi, Puri, Jagannath Chariot Festival. Similarly at different booking centers such as cinema theatres, railway booking counters, bus ticket counters, at passport offices either to get applications /forms/verification/issue or renewal of passports.

2) Important potential applications can be capturing the movement of freight. If two trains are coming on the same track they can exchange RFID signals to avoid accidents. It can also be used to locate the train on its route in real time.(Rajesh Narang, Chief Systems Managers, Center for Railway Information System)

3) Sundaram Srinivasan, practice head, RFID Wipro technologies has opined ‘For retailers with distribution centers and manufacturers with warehouses deploying RFID for inbound and outbound operations can help them improve internal supply, increase efficiency, reduce operations cost and provide better inventory visibility with distribution centers and retails back stores. Further it is said that in the pharma industry RFID is used to reduce counterfeiting by maintaining drug pedigree. It also saves s lot of time and money product recall situations.

4) T. S. Rangarajan, head, RFID solutions group, TCS says that wrist bands or loyalty cards for patients can help in reducing waiting times for patients in hospitals to be served by doctors, investigators and other service staff. It will culminate the need for standing or waiting in queues and enable patient to move about freely and to be informed when the service is ready to be provided. It will also enable segmentation of patients for differential service levels based on the category to which the patient belongs.

5) Further, the pharma tracking of drugs can be a critical application in a country where counterfeiting is a huge problem. If all the drugs in the country are tagged then the problem of superiors drugs can be easily overcome.

6) Kris Gopalakrishnan, COO and Dy Managing Director, Infosys Technologies has viewed that RFID can be of significant strategic value in India in many different sectors:

a) Improving the complex distribution and supply system for: i) Indian defense operations, ii) food supplies as a part of public distribution system and iii) Indian Postal services

b) Improving tracking logistics and planning operations of Indian Railways/state Public Transport Agencies

c) Implementing automatic toll collections on the vast network of highways being constructed across India

6) The U.S. State Department says all U.S. passports issued starting in October 2006 will contain RFID chips.

7) A group of children in Yokohama City wears active tags to keep them safe on their way to and from school.

8) South African RFID technology develop says it has developed a technology enabling a single low-cost reader to pinpoint the location of any RFID tag within read range. Thus there is no area where RFID is not applicable, which implies RFID can be a pervasive technology. Thus in a nutshell the benefits of RFID can be stated as follows:

a) Product security and Quality

b) Real time inventory visibility (a check can be seen an unwanted qauntitities)

c) Exhaustive information about product and

d) Better means of accountability – Factors Adverse for the adoption of RFID Technology

a) Expensive technology: RFID tags at present costs between $1 and $10. Specialized tags costs still more may be $100. Passive tags are available at 30 cents to $1. Indians feel the prices are too high to adopt the technology at mass level.

b) Other inhibitions including:

a) Uncertainty about standards

b) Read errors due to technology. Environmental factors

c) Lack of awareness

d) Technology issues

e) Environmental /process related factors include: Active /Passive, Frequency;low/high frequency tags, Mental proximity reverts the radio frequency, Liquid items tend to absorb the radio frequencies thus making it impossible for the reader to comprehend them, read range depends on the power of the antenna and read accuracy, Level of security, Size, Anti- clone/ Anti collision functionality, Humidity and temperature, Interference, Type/class of tags (Read only/Read write/WORM-write once, read many), Reader type, Meet for Multiplex (allowing a reader to have more than one antenna also preventing antennas from obstructing each other), Antenna size/design and placement, Tag orientation.

f) The use of RFID technology has engendered considerable controversy and even product boycotts. The four main privacy concerns regarding RFID are : i)The purchase of an item will not necessarily be aware of the presence of the tag or be able to remove it. ii) The tag can be read at a distance without the knowledge of the individuals, iii) If a tagged item is paid for by the credit card or in conjunction with the use of loyalty card, then it would be possible to the unique ID of that item to the identity of the purchase, iv) The EPC global System of tags create or are proposed to create, globally unique serial numbers for all products though this creates privacy problems and is completely unnecessary for most applications. Strategies for the rapid adoptions of RFID

1. Big retail formats are growing in India and hence RFID technology can be used for reaping the advantages identified in the above pages.

2. During March 2005, wireless planning and coordinating wing, Ministry Of Communications and Information Technology, Govt of India had issued a notification for the use of wireless equipment in the band 865-867 MHz. As per the notice, no license is required to establish, maintain, work, and possess the tags and their uses.

3. Research is going on the substitution of cheap or cost effective material to make the technology, for example, use of nanotechnology makes the RFID technology cheaper.

4. Govt. of India should bring a policy to make the use of the technology compulsorily in certain sectors namely,

a) Education sector; universities and institutions should use the technology on the certificates by recording the basic details of that student hence it becomes easy for verification and there is no scope for manipulation.

b) Pharma sector; to avoid fake medicine brands standard companies can use this technology.

c) Election Commission to issue voter ID cards, to avoid others to vote, this technology is very much useful.

d) For very expensive goods such as jewelry, costly wrist watches, diamonds etc also, the manufacturers can use this technology, to avoid duplication in the market.


Thus RFID technology can have its use in each and every sector it’ll be difficult to say a particular aspect where it cannot be applicable. The main thing to be considered is cost, considering its pervasiveness The Govt.of India should take steps to make the technology available at a low cost by way of subsidy.


1. Financial Express, July-Dec, 2005

2. The Economic Times, July-Dec, 2005

3. Data Quest, Jan- Dec, 2005

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