Conclusion

Conclusion

Katina Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia) and M.G. Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-795-9.ch016
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Abstract

This chapter is dedicated to identifying the main outcomes of the study and reflections on the future directions of the technologies that were under investigation. In concluding we have found that first, an evolutionary process of development is present in the auto-ID technology system (TS). Incremental steps either by way of technological recombinations or mutations have lead to revolutionary changes in the auto-ID industry- both at the device level and at the application level. The evolutionary process in the auto-ID TS does not imply a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach, rather a model of coexistence where each particular auto-ID technique has a path which ultimately influences the success of the whole industry. The patterns of migration, integration and convergence can be considered either mutations or recombinations of existing auto-ID techniques for the creation of new auto-ID innovations. Second, that forecasting technological innovations is important in predicting future trends based on past and current events. Analyzing the process of innovation between intervals of widespread diffusion of individual auto-ID technologies sheds light on the auto-ID trajectory. Third, that technology is autonomous by nature has been shown by the changes in uses of auto-ID; from non-living to living things, from government to commercial applications, and from external identification devices in the form of tags and badges to medical implants inserted under the skin. This does not negate, however, the inherent qualities embedded in auto-ID technologies, predisposing them to be used in certain contexts. What we have witnessed especially in auto-ID is a movement we have termed the auto-ID trajectory: from bar codes to chip implants towards the electrophorus who will herald in the age of uberveillance. Convergence of embedded automatic identification technologies with location-based services will offer unprecedented capabilities, but these capabilities will come at a high price.
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The Auto-Id Trajectory

This chapter is dedicated to identifying the main outcomes of the study and reflections on the future directions of the technologies that were under investigation. In concluding we have found that first, an evolutionary process of development is present in the auto-ID technology system (TS). Incremental steps either by way of technological recombinations or mutations have lead to revolutionary changes in the auto-ID industry- both at the device level and at the application level. The evolutionary process in the auto-ID TS does not imply a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach, rather a model of coexistence where each particular auto-ID technique has a path which ultimately influences the success of the whole industry. The patterns of migration, integration and convergence can be considered either mutations or recombinations of existing auto-ID techniques for the creation of new auto-ID innovations. Second, that forecasting technological innovations is important in predicting future trends based on past and current events. Analyzing the process of innovation between intervals of widespread diffusion of individual auto-ID technologies sheds light on the auto-ID trajectory. Third, that technology is autonomous by nature has been shown by the changes in uses of auto-ID; from non-living to living things, from government to commercial applications, and from external identification devices in the form of tags and badges to medical implants inserted under the skin. This does not negate, however, the inherent qualities embedded in auto-ID technologies, predisposing them to be used in certain contexts. What we have witnessed especially in auto-ID is a movement we have termed the auto-ID trajectory: from bar codes to chip implants towards the electrophorus who will herald in the age of uberveillance. Convergence of embedded automatic identification technologies with location-based services will offer unprecedented capabilities, but these capabilities will come at a high price.

The Evolutionary Paradigm

The evolutionary paradigm has shown us that “history matters”. Auto-ID techniques built their foundations on top of past manual ID techniques, the simplest being facial recognition using human memory. By the 19th century fingerprinting techniques were being discovered and by the mid 20th century auto-ID technologies were being prototyped. What has happened since that time has been cumulative technical change at an exhilarating speed. This rapid change, however, would not have been possible if the building blocks had not been cemented by first generation elementary breakthroughs. As more and more technological advancement occurred within the emerging auto-ID industry, and further support infrastructures, skills and tools emerged simultaneously, the use of auto-ID became widespread. Progress fuelled success and success fuelled progress. While the market in the mid 1960s was not ready for auto-ID, decade after decade thereafter, techniques permeated a diverse range of applications. A domino effect of new auto-ID innovations took place, revolutionizing the way people worked and lived. The conditions for entry were increasingly ‘right’ as ancillary technologies, like networks, storage devices and database software proliferated.

The auto-ID explosion was energized by up-and-coming niche technology providers who had a clear vision for their innovations. Bar codes in retail, for instance, were driven by stakeholders who could see both the potential impact the technology would make and the immediate path ahead. Understanding the sequence of events that shaped auto-ID was a major contribution of this study. Better understanding “what happened” means that efforts can be concentrated in the right places in the future. Rosenberg (1994, p. 23) describes the importance of historical analysis in understanding technologies. He pointed out that this type of analysis is not only relevant to historians but to economists and people in other fields.

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