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As with countless other technology-based efforts, the United States government has become a true proponent and advocate for advancing the adoption and implementation of radio-frequency identification (RFID).

One of the most significant government-based technology projects of our time was ARPANET — a large wide-area network created by the United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) in the 1960s and launched in 1969, linking many universities and research centers. As the foundation of what we refer to as the Internet today, this early effort has transformed how people communicate, interact, work and shop each day.

With many similarities to the Internet's impact, RFID is becoming a hot topic throughout various industries and organizations — including the U.S. government. During World War II, military intelligence used radio waves to determine if approaching planes were allies or enemies. From that time, RFID research, implementation and commercialization has expanded considerably with the government's guidance and support.

An RFID Success Story: From Government Labs to Mainstream Channels
E-ZPassLos Alamos National Laboratory developed a system to track nuclear materials, placing tags in trucks and readers at the gates of secure facilities. This application is used today in automated toll payment systems around the United States and world.

Utilizing RFID to Enhance Processes, Efficiency and Safety
Based on the Radio Frequency Identification Technology in the Federal Government report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2005, 13 of the largest federal agencies are already using or planning to incorporate passive RFID technology in their processes. Some include the:

    Government Accountability Office (GAO)
  • Department of State - electronic passports

  • Department of Homeland Security - immigration, the potential standardized identification card and baggage tracking

  • Department of Veterans Affairs - prescription monitoring

  • Department of Defense - tracking shipments.

While security and privacy are two leading issues in the debate over RFID standards and use, the growth, interest and technological improvement offer a number of opportunities to explore. With Intellareturn and our focus on enhancing reverse logistics, an area that can clearly benefit from these solutions is the Department of Defense.