By Mwaniki Ngari

Imagine going any supermarket in Nairobi, filling up your cart and walking right out the door, without having to endure those long lines at the cashier. No longer waiting as someone rings up each item in your cart one at a time. This might soon be happening thanks to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. RFID tags on each item will communicate with an electronic reader that will detect every item in the cart and ring each up almost instantly. The reader will be connected to a large network that will send information on your products to the retailer and product manufacturers. Your bank or mobile service provider, due to the MPESA users, will then be notified and the amount of the bill will be deducted from your account .No lines, no waiting.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) involves use of electromagnetic fields to transfer data with the goal of identification or tracking. RFID tags contain at least two parts: an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, modulating and demodulating radio signals, collecting DC power from the incident reader signal, and other specialized functions; and an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal. The tag information is stored in a non-volatile memory. The RFID tag also has fixed or programmable logic for processing the transmission and sensor data

An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to the the tag. The RFID tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information. This may be only a unique tag serial number, or may be product-related information such as shelf position, expiry number or date of manufacture. Since tags have individual serial numbers, the RFID system design can discriminate among several tags that might be within the range of the RFID reader and read them simultaneously. These tags do not require a battery to power since they are powered via electromagnetic induction from the magnetic fields produced by a reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag does not necessarily need to be within line of sight of the reader and may be embedded in the tracked object. RFIDs are easy to hide or embed in an object. They have previously been glued to ants to acts as micro transponders in attempt to study ants' behavior.

Unlike bar codes which are written on a piece of paper and are therefore easily damaged and rendered unreadable.RFID tags specifically designed to work in harsh conditions. A durable hard case protects these RFID tags from impacts, heat, moisture, and changing weather conditions.RFID tags can be read and written. They are reusable and easy to use which cuts the costs of operation.

Barcodes are easily counterfeited, and the data itself is always readable. With RFID tags, your data is much more secure as the information has the ability to be encrypted. Also, it's much more difficult to replicate RFID tags recognized in your system.

RFID-enabled systems can help companies and stores cut costs, improve customer service, reduce labor, increase accuracy, and improve production. This technology is superior compared to the traditional barcode technology.

RFID technology is clearly the future of supply chain management and can also be deployed into other areas such automobile tracking. Soon, it might even be used to track the dieting habits of the ladies keen on monitoring their weight!!