One in ten RFID projects tag humans

The percentage of worldwide radio frequency identification (RFID) projects concerning tagging people has increased from eight percent to 11 percent over the last year, according to new research — with the healthcare sector set to see the benefits.

Suzanne Tindal, ZDNet Australia

Although privacy concerns have been aired over passports being RFID-tagged, let alone people, according to the report by RFID researcher ID TechEx, people should consider the benefits before becoming too concerned.

The health sector is already taking up people-tagging, the ID TechEx report says, where it allows nurses to radio their location if they are being assaulted, reduce mother baby mismatches and baby theft, help severe diabetics with getting correct treatment, and monitoring disoriented elderly patients without the need for a dedicated member of staff.

However Phillip Allen, analyst at research firm IDC, told ZDNet Australia that RFID does not seem to have gained a foothold in the Australian healthcare industry, and is unlikely to do so in the future.

“The healthcare sector in Australia is classified as a late adopter of IT,” Allen said, adding healthcare organisations are struggling to fund the “stock standard areas of IT”, and are unlikely invest in forward-looking technologies such as RFID.

“They have been technology laggards and under-investing in technology for over a decade,” he said.

Allen said that even if healthcare organisations were to consider people-tagging, the resulting data could pose a problem. “They don’t have the systems in place to manage that volume of information,” he said.

One exception is Rockhampton hospital, where Allen said nurses are given an RFID pendant to allow the hospital to monitor their location.

Despite the likely slow uptake in the Australian healthcare industry, the country is proving an enthusiastic adopter overall. According to ID TechEx, Australia clocked up the seventh largest number of new RFID projects worldwide.

USA was number one, with the UK and China following in second and third place, all three of which were classed as “endemic surveillance societies” in the 2007 International Privacy Ranking report, released at the end of last year.