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Privacy, expense are concerns for RFID technology

February 23, 2009

Not everyone is excited about RFID at conventions and trade shows.

The vast amounts of personal information capable of being stored through RFID raises privacy concerns. And the cost is significantly greater than standard bar codes.

Mark Roberti, who owns RFID Journal and sponsors trade shows that use the technology, said most conventiongoers get past their fears.

"We gave the people at our trade show the option of taking the RFID chip off, and no one did," Roberti said.

He noted that no actual information other than a binary code is stored in the RFID chip. People's information is stored in a central computer system that feeds it to readers and monitors. If the chip is lost or stolen, virtually nothing can be gleaned from it, he said.

RFID's expense is another concern, said Gregg Maggioli, who owns the Carmel RFID firm Blue Bean LLC.

While bar code tags cost about a penny each, RFID tags start at 15 cents apiece. More advanced "active" tags capable of two-way communication are even more expensive.

Readers and other hardware needed for each doorway or RFID reading station costs $4,000 to $7,000. Software costs another $5,000 to $10,000. Service technicians needed to set up and manage the system cost $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the trade show.

"Once most people get a handle on the advantages of the technology, they find it pays off," Maggioli said.

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