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Track and Tracing – From Barcode to RFID

By Hans Bool

Search for "Tracking & Tracing" and you are overwhelmed by a response from producers, distributors, retailers and consumer organizations. Tracking and tracing is mentioned in one sentence. But there is a small difference between the two; one is focused on the process in which you need to intervene (tracing) the other is needed to manage the first (track).

Tracing is the main (process) requirement in which a product ought to be traced during the end-to-end food chain. A track is used to fulfill this process. For example, you might want to trace a product when there appears to be an “over” doses of chemicals found in a food sample. In that case you want to trace the origin of the product (and of the fertilizer) – the producer - and all the other retailers which are selling the same product to different customers.

One innovation in this area is the evolution of the barcode. We are all familiar with this code which looks like a little invisible burglar caught and send behind bars. And that was indeed the function; bar the product so it couldn’t escape.

This barcode although still sufficient a more intelligent token will speed up the process now that new tracking and tracing requirements have slowed down the same food chain.

For those of you who have a pet, for example a dog, will know that they have this little chip. You will not find it, but it is there. This chip will not only identify the dog, but will also identity the dog owner, which may change during the dog’s “life cycle.”

Now that these chips are reduced in price over time, the barcode has innovated to something called the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification). This RFID uses a chip that you can read from a (long) distance, which is an advantage which speeds up the identification process in the food chain. But you can also add information to it on your way.

Now this technology is more widely available, new business developers are looking for a new application. There are many more to find…

© 2006 Hans Bool

Hans Bool is the founder of Astor White a traditional management consulting company that offers online management advice. Astor Online solves issues in hours what normally would take days.

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