Needful “Things” (Pt. 1)

by Kim Loughead
Director, Product & Solutions Marketing

Supply Chain Digest’s editorial staff recently posted an article discussing the development of the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT).

You may not be aware of it, but slowly the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is being built, or at least preparing to be built.

The Auto ID Institute at MIT – the organization that served as the catalyst behind the move to low-cost RFID tags and what was to become the electronic product code (EPC) –  is generally credited with coining the term “The Internet of Things.”

What does this term mean? The concept involves an extension of the current web to embrace a wide – perhaps nearly ubiquitous – set of objects (people?) that can identify themselves and/or be identified electronically, and share increasing levels of intelligence about what they are and what they are doing…

…Of course, these sensors have to be wireless connected to communicate that information – and determining how often they do that, how to make sense of all that data, and how much of it to actually store and when are almost as important as the new technology itself would be.

It seems like that ought to make some form of RFID quite affordable for basic supply chain applications.

There are definitely practical applications for this type of thing and, in fact, there are already applications in place that you could regard as precursors to this concept. Consider hospital equipment inventory management. Most hospitals have critical equipment that constantly needs to be serviced. Some have already applied active RFID tags to this equipment and utilize their wireless networks to not only determine where this equipment is, but also to monitor its maintenance state. If an inducer, for example, needs to be cleaned after it’s been used, it can communicate that it needs to be moved to the maintenance closet for cleaning. Or, later, it can communicate to a nurse that it’s in the maintenance closet, cleaned and ready for duty.

Products that, if they aren’t maintained properly or are used in an incorrect manner, may risk human life—those are the obvious ones that you would want to place a higher level of tracking or monitoring upon. Assets or parts that require an extra level of monitoring, either because they are related to safety issues or there is a high rate of risk if that product is tampered with or counterfeited and may risk public safety are, by all means, worth tracking. That concept applies to a slew of products—automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, medical devices, and to some extent consumer electronics, like batteries.

However, when it comes to consumer products, this sort of thing becomes a bit more challenging.

(To be continued.)

1 Comment

  1. […] (To read the first part of this blog post, click here.) […]

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