I feel like we've passed into a new age, where science fiction has become science and the long-promised intelligent robots like C-3PO will be walking and chatting down the street any day now.
Just a tad of fun exaggeration. But let me tell you, I do find the "smart tags" that Wal-Mart
The tags -- which are attached to boxes, crates, palettes, what have you -- employ radio frequency identification technology (RFID) which many believe will eventually become the heir to the Universal Product Code (UPC) throne. They contain information about the inventory they are attached to and can relay it to devices that can decode the data, with the process occurring wirelessly and at a distance. That's an oversimplification, of course, but the essential gist is easily achieved: such a scheme will allow for a radical transformation of the entire science of supply chain management.
Wal-Mart knows this, and it has been working on the system for a while now. The company intends on making RFID tags obligatory with all of its vendors; the current test involves several blue-chip companies, such as Gillette
The goal is an important one. Remember, the higher the quantity of information a sales clerk, manager, or executive has at her disposal, the better. Frictionless distribution of qualitative and quantitative data on inventory items will help to reduce shrink (which can be paperwork errors or theft on an internal or external basis) and will assist in closing the spread between inventory levels and demand, perhaps someday on a near real-time level. This would help quicken inventory turnover. Plus, RFID protocols linked with point-of-sale systems may radically reduce checkout times.
Investors in Wal-Mart or other retailers such as Target
What companies are involved in RFID technologies? Zebra Technologies
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned.