RFID Outlook in Public Sector is Bright

The technology promises to help national, regional and local governments around the world address an array of pressing concerns more intelligently and efficiently.

Sept. 28, 2009—Doing more with less has become a mantra for governments at all levels worldwide. As agencies strive to meet service goals while keeping a lid on costs, radio frequency identification is playing an important role in an array of public sector projects. Some of these initiatives were funded and launched before the economic crisis hit, while others are being created or enhanced by a flow of stimulus money.

The relationship between RFID and governments is not new. For more than a decade, governments have played a pivotal role in RFID’s development, pioneering applications in such diverse areas as military asset management, environmental monitoring and personal identification. Many national governments are employing RFID to track livestock so animals can be identified quickly in the event of a food recall or disease outbreak. And a number of city governments—from Boston to Moscow, Paris and Seoul—have deployed public transit fare-collection systems, which eliminate costly human intervention while providing increased speed and accuracy.

Now, in these uncertain times, RFID promises to help governments perform a wide range of vital tasks more efficiently. Some, such as keeping the food supply safe and fit for consumption, are still in the nascent stages. In Norway, for instance, the government has set a 2010 deadline for developing standards and policy regarding food traceability. The project is part of its eTraceability program, intended to increase food safety by providing visibility from the farm to the store. Similarly, in Hawaii, the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture has launched an RFID pilot designed to help track produce through the supply chain. Its goal is to provide traceability whenever food safety becomes a concern, as well as to create an audit trail that will help farmers, retailers and distributors monitor the movement of fresh produce.

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