How RFID Could Continue in China

By Elizabeth Millard Print this article Print

The 2008 Olympics in Beijing represents one of the largest RFID uses to date, giving the technology a boost for even bigger implementations to come.

At the Olympics, these partnerships will be significant, Liard added, because so many nations are coming together, and the RFID vendors running the ticketing and food transportation logistics are no exception.

"There's a chance here to show how people from different countries can work together," Liard says.

After the last gold medal is slipped around the head of an athlete, RFID in China could continue in a number of ways, Liard notes, and most particularly for its food safety issues.

The country's challenges with food and pharmaceutical safety has been the subject of numerous news reports focused on everything from tainted pet food to contaminated toothpaste to unsafe ingredients for widely-prescribed medications. In July, China executed its former head of the State Food and Drug Administration for taking bribes and showing dereliction of duty.

By implementing a more comprehensive RFID system similar to what's being put in place at the Olympics, the country could have a much better grasp not only on destination and arrival of food, but also how it's been treated along the way.

The RFID system at the Olympics is paired with sensor technology, says Mullen, which records the temperature of the shipment at every moment. For something like a case of sports drinks, this might not be so important, but for highly perishable foods like beef or pork, the information is invaluable, especially since it will be offered to thousands of athletes and coaches, as well as millions of spectators.

"As you can imagine, the amount of food moving into and around the game is pretty immense," says Mullen. "The RFID and sensor system allows someone with a reader to see if a food has gone outside a temperature range, rather than just reading a bar code to determine that it's the correct box. That makes the data more dynamic, and we can see that it could have a lot of impact in the future."

RFID and sensors are already being used in conjunction by some transport companies, mainly with pharmaceuticals that need to be maintained at a certain temperature at all times. But the massive scope of the Olympics could be an example to China and other countries for implementation of government-run systems.

Similarly, success with the RFID-enabled tickets could change how ticketing is done for other large-scale events. The technology will be used for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, for example, where it could be placed into nearly 70 million tickets, notes Liard.

"At this point, even bar codes can be forged," Liard says. "RFID tickets have been used before in China to defeat counterfeiting, such as for admittance at the Great Wall of China and tennis events, but the scope of this implementation is what makes it unique."

Also worth noting is how RFID can be paired with other uses, he adds, such as combining event admission and parking, or adding in concession stand features that will allow a user to hand over their ticket instead of carrying cash.

"Identification management has been an area where RFID has been used since the early days," says Mullen. "But now, with the ticketing aspect, you're going to see the anti-counterfeiting space really expand."

This article was originally published on 2008-03-03
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