Green Potential of RFID Projects a Case-Based Analysis Article Critique

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Green Potential of RFID Projects

Indranil Bose and Shipeng Yan's article "The Green Potential of RFID Projects: A Case-Based Analysis" attempts to analyze the current state of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology as it relates to the technology's potential for improving the environment. The researchers attempt to do this by looking at thirteen different case studies of "green" RFID use, and although their evidence suggests that RFID technology does have the potential to enhance the environment and reduce waster, there are certain details of its implementation which Bose and Yan's study cannot account for. Therefore, one must examine Bose and Yan's article in detail in order to determine any weak points or other areas which require investigation.

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Bose and Yan are particularly interested in studying the potential for greener applications of RFID technology because "traditionally, information and communication technologies (ICT) have been viewed as having a negative impact on the environment, and RFID, as part of ICT, has earned a similar reputation" (Bose & Yan, 2011, p. 41). This is largely due to the amount of energy required to run the numerous computers and servers needed to fully utilize RFID technology as well as the fact that RFID labels are not currently biodegradable or recyclable (p. 41). However, the wide variety of possible applications for RFID labels, such as "accurately tracking a perishable item and preventing its spoilage" or maximizing the efficiency of a delivery service, present a number of opportunities for cutting waste and reducing unnecessary emissions (p. 41).

Article Critique on Green Potential of RFID Projects a Case-Based Analysis Assignment

Bose and Yan examine thirteen different RFID applications in order to see their current ability for advancing green technological developments, choosing case studies "with a strong green objective" in order to ensure that they analyzed the most cutting edge applications (p. 42). Five of the thirteen companies studied use RFID for some form of recycling, whether that be employing "an RFID system in trash bins to allow municipalities to measure the amount of recycling done by a household and give them rewards in return" or using "an RFID-based decision support system to track the process of recycling the plastics used in automobiles" (p. 42). Others used RFID tags to prevent the spoilage of perishable goods, track things in a supply chain like logs of wood or packages in transit, organize traffic, and regulate temperature. Based on their analysis of these companies, Bose and Yan determine that RFID has substantial potential in the field of green IT so long as companies are able to "avoid sacrificing profits for environmental health or vice versa," with every company showing at least some improvement both in terms of efficiency and a greener footprint (p. 46).

While the overall claims of Bose and Yan's article are undoubtedly true, they note that "whether RFID is green is less important that how RFID can be made greener," a question they are unable to answer in their article (p. 46). Bose and Yan only perform the most basic descriptive work, categorizing each RFID application according to a four term framework which analyzes the motivation behind any given project, how it was executed, the challenges faced during implementation, and the impact of that implementation (p 42-43). Because Bose and Yan are attempting to answer a relatively basic question, their article ultimately feels stunted because they are unable to include a robust enough analysis of the ample information produced using the MECI (motivation, execution, challenges, impacts) framework, while still other categories make it appear that the MECI framework must inevitably be missing some crucial details.

This is seen most obviously with the "challenges" section of the analysis, because while the tabulation of results "give the impression that the projects didn't encounter too many challenges," as only six of the thirteen companies were listed as having experience challenges, "many of the projects were in an early stage of completion," and furthermore, "in some cases, the organizations involved might have chosen not to identify the challenges in published case studies" (p. 46). Despite Bose and Yan's mention of these mitigating factors, they nonetheless spend fairly little time discussing the challenges faced in implementing these RFID projects considering that this portion of their study could go the furthest in explaining "how RFID can be made greener," because overcoming the early challenges of implementing relatively novel technology inevitably leads to more widespread adoption.

What little analysis is present in the "challenges" section remains somewhat flawed, as well, because their reliance on the MECI framework does not allow them to accurately describe some of the challenges faced by companies. For example, when discussing the central challenge for Concept2Solution, a company which "uses RFID-equipped recycle bins to remind households to actively participate in recycling programs," Bose and Yan state that "Concept2Solution's key challenge has been ensuring that the workers don't forget the step that activates the RFID system," but they consider this a "technological" problem, rather than a human resources issue (p. 44). This is immediately after discussing how "in the case of DHL, the tags can't achieve 100% read rate accuracy when the duration of the reader-tag interaction is too short, yet it's impractical to completely prevent short reader-tag interaction" (p. 44). By confusing training problems with actual technological bugs, Bose and Yan unnecessarily saddle RFID technology with problems which are far from unique to the technology, especially considering that working with any new technology would likely first result in a number of employees forgetting to turn it on. Obviously, it remains unlikely that any company would rely solely on Bose and Yan's article when deciding whether or not to implement an RFID project, but the fact remains that their inaccurate classification of the challenges facing RFID applications insinuates that RFID applications are more complicated than they really are.

This is not to say that RFID projects are entirely without challenges, but rather that these challenges may only be met by first understanding the problem accurately. Thus, Bose and Yan's discussion of the informational problems associated with RFID applications is far more helpful than their analysis of the technological problems, because getting disparate systems to interact and share information is a far more daunting challenge than improving scanner accuracy or remembering to turn something on. Furthermore, because "the larger the scale, the bigger the impact," those projects which deal with the implementation of a RFID tracking technology throughout an entire supply line simultaneously have both the greatest potential for environmental sustainability as well as the likelihood of coming across various informational challenges (p. 45).

In addition to skimping somewhat on the discussion regarding the challenges faced when implementing green RFID projects, Bose and Yan's framework ultimately requires them to spend a good deal of time analyzing details only tangential to the essential question of RFID's potential for green IT. In particular, while the individual motivations of each company are interesting, and might be used as evidence for an argument in favor of RFID as a means to increase profit, here they do nothing to help determine how green RFID can help make a company (because it does not matter why the projects were begun, but rather what they have resulted in). More helpful is the time spent studying the execution of these projects, but even then Bose and Yan focus not so much on what it takes to complete projects of the kind under discussion but rather on restating presumptions, that, although confirmed by their data, provides little useful information for anyone attempting to learn what it takes to develop and implement an environmentally productive RFID application. For example, the authors note that "big corporations seem to have made more progress in green RFID projects, given their stronger financial capabilities, their operational advantages, and pressure from the public," without going into any detail as to how these big corporations actually used their ample resources to make… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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