Bellerbys Economics - Mr Stephenson

Monday, November 26, 2007

RFID - Really Fried

This one's not strictly Economics - except in the general sense that everything is Economics - but with Bellerbys about to launch an exciting new Management Computing Systems Foundation course in 2008, my mind's been hovering in that area just recently.

Who knows what RFID is? It stands for Radio Frequency Identification Device - and it's going to be the big new thing in our new security conscious world - buy shares in RFID companies now!!

A school in Doncaster is testing the system. Every student has an RFID chip - flat and no bigger than half a thumbnail - embedded in their uniform. A series of wall-mounted scanners around the school can read them. So, the staff know where you are at any moment - 'Now we're really fried,' as one quote put it. The chip can store information in real-time - like when you're late or absent - as staff have hand-held monitors (like the tricorder in Star Trek - cool!) that can interact with the chip.

The chip can hold almost infinite amounts of information about you - your current grades, subjects, personal details, medical stuff, perhaps even financial details (though hopefully this would be locked from anyone except the bank and cashpoint). You wouldn't need to carry money anymore, it would just be deducted from the credit on your chip as you passed the scanner in the canteen.

In shops, we wouldn't need checkout staff either. Each product would have printed on it a 'Do you want to buy me?' section and your thumbprint will register a purchase by pressing against the hidden chip in the packaging, which would then deduct it from your own chip (by this stage, the chips will be embedded under your skin - don't worry it's painless - and anyway, it would probably be done at birth, so you wouldn't remember).

With webcams in every classroom, your image could be beamed to your parent's mobile whenever they want to see what you're up to - won't that be fun!

Here's a serious Economics question - evaluate the introduction of RFID chips in terms of the five areas of efficiency that we have studied - there's a (small) prize for the best answer. What's the prize? Well, here's a clue - this one doesn't come with fried fish.


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