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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. put radio frequency identification technology on the map after mandating in 2004 that suppliers affix a tiny RFID chip to pallets and cartons of goods bound for select distribution centers, but on opening day at RFID World 2006 it's clear the road ahead is wide open for RFID products and related technologies.
Asset tracking, smart shelves, education tracks and the next generation of RFID tags are some of the products and services executives will see at the event held in Dallas, home to three high-profile RFID supply chain projects --- Albertson's Inc., Target Corp. and Wal-Mart.
In the opening keynote on Tuesday, Julie England, vice president and general manager of RFID systems at Texas Instruments Inc., said RFID does more than keep track inventory in supply chains. RFID speeds transaction times for a variety of industries from airport security to contactless payment.
Following a successful pilot in 2005, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will begin rolling out a nationwide frequent flyer travel program on June 20, 2006, England said. The program aims to move frequent travelers through airport security check lines more quickly with biometric data and background checks.
Travelers are issued cards after pre-registering. "Indianapolis International Airport announced in January it will begin this program, making it the fourth airport to do so," England told a packed room of conference attendees. "Indianapolis is joining Orlando, which is up and running with 16,000 travelers, and two California airports, Sacramento and San Jose."
England also said there are more than 20,000 retail stores in the United States accepting contactless payments. Vice president and general manager of advanced payments at American Express David Bonalle, who took the stage next, said some of the locations accepting RFID-embedded contactless cards include 7-Eleven, AMC Theatres, Lowes Cineplex and Regal Cinema.
The breakthrough in the United States for contactless payments has been to securely identify the individual card owner to American Express's credit card system, Bonalle said. "The account number on the chip is not the same account number on the card, so if we see the number show up somewhere we immediately know it's a fraudulent card," he said "We tag every transaction with a unique digital signature that's identified in our server, so we know what number to expect next."
Although the United States lags in deploying RFID-enabled contactless credit cards, debit cards are on the way, according to John Greaves, vice president of the Global RFID Solutions Group at NCR Corp.
But the technology and the terminals are not challenge. Europe is far more advanced, experts say. "The mechanics holding up debit cards are the risks associated with the debit cards," Greaves said. "The federal law rules need to change. I'm not sure if you're aware, but the rules on consumer indemnity are different for credit cards and debit cards."