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Radio-Frequency Identification in Healthcare and Agriculture

In the 1970s, barcodes seemed like the height of sophisticated product tracking. However, both technological progress and market demands have developed significantly in recent years, presenting new identification and tracking opportunities. Specifically, radio-frequency identification (RFID) has gained traction due to its ability to transmit data over distance. According to the most cautious of estimations, the industry was worth over $10 billion in 2019 (Das, 2019). It is widely used in transportation, warehouse management, healthcare, and agriculture. Nevertheless, some retailers avoid it due to prohibitive costs and should probably not switch to radio-frequency identification until absolutely necessary. While it is unlikely that RFID will replace barcodes completely, several sectors, such as healthcare and agriculture, have adopted the innovation due to its convenience and capabilities.

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RFID has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last 20 years. Despite its ubiquity being reasonably recent, radio-based identification technology is hardly new. The first use of radar tags dates back to World War II experiments. However, its modern use in retail and manufacturing of goods has only become popular in the last decade due to the way it can interact with digital data storage and collection. According to Ahson and Ilyas (2017), RFID mainly comes in two main modes: active and passive. Active tags are equipped with a battery and send a signal at regular intervals, while a passive tag is dormant unless interacting with a reader (Ahson & Ilyas, 2017). The systems also vary depending on the type of information the creators want to store. For instance, some chips merely possess a tracking number that allows one to identify the object attached; others are more complex and have additional recorded data. Overall, RFID is becoming increasingly popular, with the technology being applied in novel, fascinating ways.

Healthcare is one of the industries advocating for the increased application of radio-frequency identification. After all, hospitals are an environment that would greatly benefit from the rapid exchange of information. RFID could prevent problems with workflow and prevent medical errors as a result of administrative setbacks. For instance, Haddara and Staaby (2018) describe a future in which this technology creates a more streamlined, cost-effective work environment for healthcare workers. Tagging likewise facilitates efficiency in the supply chain, helping nurses deliver correct medication to their patients quickly and methodically. However, the adoption of innovative solutions never come easy. Without a complex combination of a technology push and motivated advocates, hospital administrators are unlikely to implement RFID in their organizations in the near future. Nevertheless, the global pandemic has demonstrated a definite need for radio-powered and other wireless technology within the industry (Wood, 2020). Despite the reticence of managers, RFID in the healthcare sector can streamline supply chains, prevent medical errors, and ease the work of medical professionals.

Another sector that has expressed an understandable interest in RFID technology is agriculture. Those working in the industry can attest that the facilities and factory farms have only grown in recent years. The number of animals is increasing with the growth of the population and the demand for produce. Therefore, innovative ways of managing livestock are necessary, with radio-frequency identification actively considered among the options. Specifically, passive tags are already in use for illness detection, but some posit that the collected data can help create predictive models to improve animals’ welfare. Brown-Brandl et al. (2019) list several popular types of the technology in use, including low, high, and ultra-high frequency systems, each with their benefits, drawbacks, and performance quirks. On a related note, farmers involved with crops can use RFID tags to monitor soil quality as well as manage their supplies and equipment. Thus, agriculture has already wholeheartedly embraced radio-frequency identification, and new applications will appear in the future.

Nevertheless, the market’s tendency to become infatuated with new technology and apply it across-the-board means that RFID has run into its fair share of issues. For instance, this tagging system does not perform well when the density of the material is too high. The radio signal becomes dispersed, so manufacturers working with such products should consider whether this technology is suitable for their purposes. Moreover, companies that have access to private information and need to store it on the chips should be aware that the RFID signal is easy to intercept, leading to data breaches and legal problems. While the market offers transponders that are more secure, they are also more expensive, meaning a cost-benefit analysis might be in order. Other common concerns in the application of radio-frequency identification include electronic noise, readings speed, and distance. Nevertheless, RFID is still a developing field, and the next generation of tags and readers will likely overcome the challenges described above.

RFID has only recently appeared on the market, but it has certainly attracted its share of devotees. While it is common in the obvious sectors, such as transportation and warehouse management, the technology has found popularity in such industries as healthcare and agriculture. Hospitals can adopt it to streamline workflow, prevent medical errors, and make the supply chain more efficient. Furthermore, farmers can use it to prevent illnesses among the livestock and improve their welfare. While it is unlikely to completely replace barcodes, mostly due to costs and technical obstacles, RFID is an excellent technology with many applications that can only be explored through future research.


Ahson, S.A., & Ilyas, M. (2017). RFID handbook: Applications, technology, security, and privacy. CRC Press.

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Brown-Brandl, T. M., Adrion, F., Maselyne, J., Kapun, A., Hessel, E. F., Saeys, W., Van Nuffel, A., & Gallmann, E. (2019). A review of passive radio frequency identification systems for animal monitoring in livestock facilities. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 35(4), 579-591. Web.

Das, R. (2019). RFID forecasts, players and opportunities 2019-2029. IDTechEx. Web.

Haddara, M., & Staaby, A. (2018). RFID applications and adoptions in healthcare: A review on patient safety. Procedia Computer Science, 138, 80–88. Web.

Wood, L. RFID in healthcare | Market trajectory & analytics 2020-2027. Business Wire. Web.

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