Clothing to be RFID Tagged at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart, an early adopter of RFID technology
Wal-Mart, an early adopter of RFID technology

(RFIDWorld.ca) Wal-mart Stores Inc. will soon roll out sophisticated electronic tags that will keep track of number, types and sizes of jeans and underwear.  Advocates of this radio-frequency ID (RFID) tags say that inventory will be better organized eliminating theft whereas critics claim that the new technology will invade individual privacy.

Hand held scanner will be used by the retailer which will allow to better organize merchandize and keep track of what belongs where at any given time.  If the trial throughout stores is successful and proves to be efficient, such technology will be in stores all over the US for all merchandize. Over 3750 Wal-Mart stores will be RFID technology friendly in the near future.

Raul Vazquez, the executive in charge of Wal-Mart stores in the west said that this type of technology will really transform the way business works at Wal-Mart stores.

Retailers including Wal-Mart have used RFID tags in the past.  Such tags allow for a scanning of merchandize codes from a distance allowing to keep track of merchandize flowing through their supply chain.

If Wal-Mart starts the usage of RFID technology at a large scale it will be a leader in the industry and others will surely follow it’s steps in adopting electronic tag technology.  Wal-Mart’s well-known strategy of squeezing its operation costs so that it can provide low prices for its customers was followed by other competitors and the same will be done with RFID technology if is widely adopted by the leading department store.

However, all this “hype” is raising privacy concerns by advocates of individual privacy.  The concern is that when the tags are removed from the merchandize, they cannot be turned off, hence they are trackable.  Privacy advocates argue that because of this inability to “disarm” an RFID tags, competing marketers or potential robbers will be able to drive by residential houses and scan garbage cans to discover what the household purchases.

Moreover, some privacy advocates suggest that there is a possibility of fraudulent activity with such technology.  Since several states such as Washington and New York have started giving advanced driving licenses which contain radio frequency tags allowing individuals to cross the border more easily, privacy advocates state the possibility of criminals to be able to scan people with such licenses as they make purchases and combine the information with their credit card data.  This will allow the stalkers to know when these people next step into the same store again.

The main issue according to Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering is that there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in knowing more about people who walk on the sales floors.

Wal-Mart has demanded that the tags be on removable labels rather than the clothing itself to avoid any chances of tracking. Another step Wal-Mart has taken is posted up signs informing customers about the risks of RFID tags and how to handle them.

Sanjay Sharma, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that the concerns about RFID tags are valid but the benefits outnumber the concerns so the technology should be adopted as soon as possible.

RFID tags could potentially get rid of checkout lines in the future and avoid miscalculations in store merchandize.  The count of merchandise can be at each sales persons fingertips making the whole selling and buying process a lot easier.

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