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All About the Paper -- Dickeson

April 2004
Follow the paper is the axiom of a successful printing firm of the present. The need to follow the paper will grow as the application of RFID takes shape over this next year or so. RFID in printing stands for Radio Frequency Identification tagging of inventories. Get ready for it, if you're not already. It's coming on like gangbusters.

RFID isn't a new technology. It's been around for at least 15 years. It can give us more current information than a barcode—and faster. In fact, one of the problems is what to do with all of the current data RFID can supply. We're facing an avalanche of information.

Nearly all of the major database suppliers are in various stages of preparation for RFID, except for the printing data systems. Those suppliers are reluctant to get ahead of their printing company users.

What's making RFID so hot at present? WalMart and the DoD (Department of Defense) have announced in the past few months that they are switching to RFID. Come the first of the year, they're going to require that their major suppliers furnish skids of goods with RFID tags attached. They're demanding that accommodation from their supply chains. That, and decreasing prices of equipment, are giving RFID the shot in the arm it needed to get going in this country.

Look Across the Pond

In Europe many companies are using it already—have been for some time—to track inventories. In this country thousands of cattle and other animals are going about their business with RFID tags in their ears or under their skins. Auto companies are putting RFID tags in our cars and trucks so that they can be tracked. Toll roads are using a form of them to charge for services. Many of us are using some form of RFID tagging already without being aware of it.

There are two forms of RFID: read only and read/write. Both are tags that can be affixed to a physical object. Both can be remotely "read" by a radio receiver tuned to their frequency, but the information on the read/write tags can be remotely edited or modified by a radio transmitter/receiver.

That ability to modify the data by high speed, and the re-usability of the tags, is what makes them particularly appealing to the idea of "following the paper" in printing. Data on those tags can tell us much about the paper used for the printing of a form or job.


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