RFID tagRadio-frequency technology has come far from its roots at the beginning of the twentieth century. Russian physicist Leon   Theremin is commonly attributed as having created the first RFID device in 1946 (Scanlon, 2003). While Theremin may be recognized for the first successful application of the technology, RFID has earlier roots.

RFID is a combination of radar and radio broadcast technology. Radar was developed in the U.S. in the 1920s (Scanlon, 2003). Scholars noted the relationship between electricity and magnetism, which is a foundation of radio broadcasting, at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Romagnosi, 2009). Harry Stockman wrote a seminal paper in 1948, identifying the vast amount of research and development still needed before “reflected-power communications” could be used in applications.

Interest in implementing RFID in libraries is on the rise (Dorman, 2003). RFID technology has been used to raise efficiency in transport, business and theft-monitoring systems. The evolution of RFID described below suggests that libraries may well benefit from widespread use of this technology.

1920s   Foundation Established
•    Radar was developed as a technology in the U.S. in the 1920s.  
•    RFID, a combination or radio broadcast technology and radar, was developed soon after.

1930s   Progress

•    Britain used a related technology, an IFF transponder, to distinguish enemy aircraft during WWII. 

1940s   RFID Invented

•    Radar is refined.
•    Harry Stockman publishes "Communication by Means of Reflected Power."

1950s   Time of Research and Development
•    Technologies related to RFID were explored in laboratories.
•    Designs developed for long-range transponder systems for aircraft.

1960s   Applications Abound
•    During the 1960s inventors began applying radio frequency technology to devices aimed at markets beyond the  
•    Companies Sensormatic, Checkpoint and Knogo develop theft prevention production for public consumption using
      Electronic Article Survelliance
•    EAS is an affordable and relatively simple technology.  “1-bit tags” meant that systems could only detect the       
      presence of absence of the tag. 
•    EAS represents the first and to-date, most popular use of RFID technology

1970s   Hard at Work

•    Academic institutions, government laboratories companies and independent researchers are all working to                   develop RFID technology. 
•    Work done at this time was aimed toward electronic toll collection, animal and vehicle tracking, and factory               automation.

1980s   Commercial Expansion

•    RFID technology is fully implemented.  Europe and the U.S.apply RFID to transportation systems, animal                   tracking, and business applications.

1990s   RFID Becomes Commonplace
•    RFID uses are so widespread that standards begin to emerge. 
•    RFID is widely used by consumers and companies globally. 

2000s    RFID Enhancements

•    Improved technology leads to miniaturization. 
•    Cost of RFID continues to fall.
•    Private authentication develops as key concern in library implementation