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Radio frequency identification (RFID) can be traced back to World War II, where the Germans, Japanese, Americans and British were all using radar. The first person to ever achieve a patent for RFID was a U.S man named Mario W. Cardullo. Mr.Cardullo received the patent for an active RFID tag with rewritable memory on January 23, 1973. Along with Cardullo, Californian entrepreneur Charles Watson received a patent for a passive transponder invented to disengage a door without the need for a key. A card with an embedded transponder communicated a signal to a reader near the door. When the reader detected a valid identity, a number stored within the RFID tag, unlocked the door. In the 1970’s the U.S government were also working on the systems of RFID’s. They were using this new technology to develop a system for tracking nuclear materials.

As time went on so did the progress of RFID’s. Companies began to create commercialized systems that moved up the radio spectrum to high frequency, which was unregulated and unused in most parts of the world. These new systems of High frequency presented a superior range and faster data transport. Companies across the world, but most commonly in European countries, used the RFID technology to track reusable containers and other assets.

In the beginning of the 1990s, the IBM Company had their engineers create and patent an ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID system. This new RFID system “UHF” created by IBM, made accessible a longer read range that went up to 20 feet under good conditions, and faster data transfer. IBM did some early pilots with Wal-Mart, but never commercialized this technology. By the mid 90’s IBM had a great deal of financial trouble and was forced to sell off the patens for their RFID systems. Intermec a bar code systems provider was the company who purchased the systems. Intermec RFID systems were installed in many different applications, from warehouse tracking to farming.

The Uniform Code Council, EAN International, Procter & Gamble, and Gillette gave UHF RFID systems its rise in 1999, providing the funding to establish the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. David Brock and Sanjay Sarma two professors at the Institute came up with the idea to place low cost RFID tags on all products made, to track them through the supply chain. Their formula for creation was to put only a serial number on the tag to keep the price down, a microchip that stored little information, and would be less expensive to manufacture than a complex chip that stored greater amounts of memory. Sarma and Brock turned RFID into a networking technology by linking objects to the Internet through a tag.

This new technology was important to businesses, as it changed the landscape of supply chain. This new technology allowed manufacturer’s to automatically inform business partners when a shipment was leaving the dock at a manufacturing facility, or warehouse, allowing a retailer to automatically provide the manufacturer with the information of when goods arrived.

The Auto-ID Center received support from more than 100 large end user companies, along with the U.S. Department of Defense and many important RFID vendors during the years of 1999 – 2003. This support allowed the creation of research labs in Australia, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan and China. Developing two air interface protocols, the Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbering scheme, and a network design for looking up data associated with a RFID tag on the Internet. The technology was licensed to the Uniform Code Council in 2003, and the Uniform Code Council created EPCglobal, a joint venture with EAN International, to commercialize EPC technology. In 2004, a ratified second generation standard was created by EPCglobal to create broad adoption.

The biggest retailers in the world such as, Albertsons, Metro, Target, Tesco, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense have said they plan to use EPC technology to track goods in their supply chain. The pharmaceutical, tire, and defense industries also are beginning the adoption of this technology. RFID tags have been used for years in the United States and all over the world to track cows, a passive RFID system that used UHF radio waves, a technique known as back scatter. It places a transponder encapsulated in glass that is injected under the cow’s skin. These same transponders were implemented in cards also, used to control the access to buildings.