Whatever happened to RFID, 3DTV?

December 24, 2015 // By Bill Schweber
Bill Schweber thinks back to some mass-market predictions that turned into niche market curiosities.

As the year draws to a close it is customary for bloggers (formerly known as columnists) and pundits to look back and cite what they think were the (choose one or more) best, worst, most innovative, most exciting products and developments of the past year, and attempt to predict the future. It’s also the season of the Consumer Electronics Show ( CES) where hope and hype combine to show us what the future may look like – or maybe not.

Rather than give you my subjective top-item listicle, I prefer to look at some of the more-hyped products and systems of a few years ago that seem to have not reached their hoped-for potential, or have largely disappeared from the market and attention. Sometimes you can learn a lot about the future by looking back, right? 

The first one that comes to mind is RFID (radio frequency identification). Just a few years ago, the story was that RFID tags, both passive and active, would be everywhere. Some said that they would be so cheap and so useful that we’d find them on individual packages at the grocery, replacing the truly ubiquitous bar code. The real benefit would be with re-writable RFID tags which could have basic data added as the package was traveled, as a sort of personal record of the journey. 

Some of the tags would have sensors for acceleration or temperature, and record if the package was dropped, or exposed to extreme temperatures (especially useful for foods such as fish, for example). From my selfish perspective, there would be lots of analog circuitry in the sensors, the RF link, and the RF readers—much of which could then be adapted to other applications, which is a normal consequence of a high-volume product development. 

Did RFID everywhere happen, or at least make major advances? I’d say the answer is yes and no. On one side, we see RFID