Wal-Mart Pressures RFID ChipmakersThe prospect of continuous monitoring of things disturbs privacy advocates, but consumers have already proved themselves willing to trade some confidentiality for convenience. An example is the one-click service at Amazon.com ( AMZN), in which shoppers allow the Web site to harbor their credit card information in exchange for the ease and speed of single-click purchasing. In a fully RFID-powered world, a smart-card carrying consumer could conceivably roll her shopping cart directly out of a supermarket past a reader that would tote up her purchases, charge her credit line, deduct the items from inventory and hand her a receipt -- and then disable the tracking devices.
Alien Technology: Start-Up at the Leading EdgeIdle threat? Maybe not. In January, Gillette ( G) got the ball rolling by placing an order for 500 million RFID tags from tiny, privately held Alien Technology of Morgan Hill, Calif. -- the first major commercial deal for the technology. Alien, which boasts Avery Dennison ( AVY) and Dow Chemical ( DOW) among its investors, is out in front because it developed and holds patent rights to a manufacturing process called Fluidic Self Assembly. The company says the process allows it to package tiny integrated circuits, termed NanoBlocks, into electronic product tags at a rate of two million per hour -- about 200 times faster than the 10,000-per-hour rate of manufacturing conventional ICs. Not only does that reduce the cost of the tags (the Gillette order is estimated at 10 cents per chip), but it will permit the annual production of trillions of tags in the expected future.
|Beam me up |
10 RFID plays
|Company||6/20 price||Price/sales||Market cap||Exchange||% chg YTD|
|Unova (UNA)||$10.55||0.48||$619 M||NYSE||75.80|
|Symbol Technologies (SBL)||13.96||2.52||3.2 B||NYSE||69.80|
|Zebra Technologies (ZBRA)||74.22||4.75||2.3 B||NASDAQ||29.50|
|Texas Instruments (TXN)||18.50||3.66||31.9 B||NYSE||23.30|
|Samsys Technologies (CA)||0.97||32.33||27.86 M||Vancouver||21.30|
|Tyco International (TYC)||19.33||1.06||38.6 B||NYSE||13.20|
|Koninklijke Philips Electronics (PHG)||19.80||0.76||25.3 B||NYSE||12.00|
|Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)||54.26||0.96||237.6 B||NYSE||7.40|
|Procter & Gamble (PG)||91.23||2.77||118.5 B||NYSE||6.20|
|Gillette (G)||32.10||3.77||32.7 B||NYSE||5.70|
|Source: MSN Money|