RFID tags and Barcodes

The digital revolution has provided us with ways to track information that revolutionizes every earlier method. Think of these:

  • Barcodes
  • Radio Frequency ID tags (RFID’s) (more info)
  • The Web

Barcodes were an amazing new device when they first came out. With the pass of a wand you can extract a code number that completely identifies one item out of a million. It doesn’t tell you any information about the item directly but you can look that up in a database in your computer. Later on two dimensional barcodes began to be used by Fed Ex and others that can store even more information. A great advantage of these dense information devices is that they can be printed on ordinary paper with ordinary ink. This latter property still makes them extremely attractive.

For sheer density of information, barcodes were obsoleted by RFID’s. These are tiny electrical circuits with an included microchip that can provide real information, such as a text, as well as an identifying code number. They are also read by a wand which funnels the information they contain into a computer for digestion and display. They don’t require any battery because the wand itself puts out a weak electromagnetic signal that activates and powers the device for reading it. And the most amazing thing: they can now be made for about a penny apiece.

Lastly, the World Wide Web offers still more applications. A particular item can be identified by either of the above local devices and this can open an unlimited storehouse of up-to-date information about the particular item. Just input a serial number and there is no limit to the amount of information that can be retrieved about that item.

Let me suggest a few ways that these various devices can be used to support reuse.

  • BOOKS -Lets imagine that every book published came with an RFID in the spine which completely identified the book. It could even identify that particular copy if you wanted to track it that carefully. But it could show the name, the author, many keywords and subjects, a description and maybe a sample chapter. How would this affect the handling of books that were read and no longer wanted? Let’s assume that the books still go to a thrift shop or a secondhand bookstore and are put onto a shelf. The person responsible could then take a simple wand and walk down the shelves, reading all the RFID’s at once. All of the information they contain could flow through the wand, into a nearby computer. Some standard software could then organize the titles into a database. Then the database could be uploaded to a website so that anyone in the world could search it for a desired book. What a change this would make in access to used books! Every secondhand shop would become a world supply center.
A few years ago it was reported that a Belgian distributor is already manually adding RFID’s to the spines of all the books he sells. How much more efficient it would be if those RFID’s were added during the initial publication!   See article on RFID’s in books
  • HOUSE FURNISHINGS Books are not the only things with a vibrant secondhand market. Appliances and furniture do too, so they could also come with descriptive RFID’s too.
  • CLOTHING Clothing has its own market. RFID’s are already put into clothing just to prevent theft, but think how much more exciting it would be to revolutionize the way that used clothing is made available for reuse.
  • BUILDING UNITSEvery window and door and cabinet that is installed into a house could have its own RFID so that when it is removed and taken to a salvage yard, anyone can request a particular design (double pane, 36 inches by 30 inches, aluminum frame model 7098, made by Curtiss Windows) and search for it worldwide. With time, this device could be expanded to every kind of unit in a building that could be dismantled and removed and it could lead to a thriving dismantling industry. Perhaps a new buyer could be found for every item in a building before any dismantling is even done.
  • Amazon, the world’s largest seller of goods is set for a new application of RFID’s in a store that tracks the things you merely lift off the shelf and charges you for them as you exit the store, without having to ring them up at all.
  • "RFID wins. The EE Times had a good observation on the state of RFID and noted that the technology wins no matter what. EE Times noted:
    The video creates expectations among consumers that they should be able to avoid check-out lines. It puts big grocery chains on notice that they need to figure out how to use RFID tags to create such stores before their competitors do.
    This RFID transition is long overdue. The swap to RFID has been talked about for years and checkout free demonstrations have been numerous. Yet, retailers and tech vendors have fallen short. RFID in the supply chain has grown. The front-facing applications have been few and far between. The way RFID has been adopted highlights how enterprises have focused more on costs than customer experiences." (Dec 2016)
So far, all the garbage hawkers have been able to come up with for these tracking devices is to label pieces of garbage for disposal. Yuk! What a poverty of imagination! See how thinking about garbage will destroy your higher mental functions.


The above applications of RFID’s are benign, intended to save resources and rationalize our daily operations. As usual, we are not the ones with social power and a psychopathic drive to control people. Here are some new applications of tracking that are in our future. Many of them rely on implantation of such devices in our bodies.

TATTOO ON FINGER – A tiny tattoo will identify us to our equipment. Just point your finger at your car and the door opens. Point again and the motor starts. It doesn’t sound overly intrusive, does it? But at the same time,  you will be identified to any government outfit with a tattoo reader, like it or not.

IDENTITY RFID CHIP IMPLANTABLE – With an RFID chip in your body, any unnoticed scanner knows who you are and where you are. No more “kicking ass and taking names”. The names of all protestors will be instantly known. Then prior to the next scheduled protest, a remote signal may render all potential protestors unconscious for the day. Or how about an excruciating implanted pain the closer anyone comes to the site of a protest. Or even if they come to a place they don’t have permission to be.

     The selling point is no more unidentified children (or dogs) to get lost but the chips won’t self destruct at age eleven. It means no more unidentified adults either. Hidden street cameras and facial recognition software will just be a memory.

SOLDIERS AS COMMODITIES – We discussed books, clothing and building components above but to the military, a soldier is a simple commodity that they need to control. Every soldier’s location will be known every second. Will the chips be removed when his military service is over?

So what do YOU think will be the first to get tracked? Books or citizens?

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