RFID Talk Blog

The beginning of the end for bar codes?

New developments in printed RFID tags could spell the end for bar codes within five years. Researchers at Rice University and at Sunchon National University in Korea say they have designed an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging. Once a few kinks are ironed out of the technology, RFID tags could be embedded into all products at grocery stores, enabling retailers to inventory an entire store in a matter of seconds.

The research, conducted at Rice and Sunchon, was recently profiled in the March issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices.

Consumers leaving the store with a cart full of groceries could simply pass under a portal that would take seconds to read their items and check them out of the store, with the transaction occurring seamlessly from an RFID-enabled credit card, mobile phone or store loyalty card. As soon as the customer leaves the facility, the store’s inventory levels would adjust automatically.

“We are going to a society where RFID is a key player,” Gyou-jin Cho, a professor of printed electronics engineering at Sunchon, said in a press release. Cho expects the technology to mature in five years, at which time tags should cost no more than a penny a piece, the result of the roll-to-roll printing process that has been developed.

However, before the technology can become ubiquitous, it must overcome some challenges. For starters, researchers must find a way to reduce the paper tags by at least half their current size – or to the size of current bar codes. In addition, the tag’s range must increase dramatically.

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