Shopping made easy come the smart-tag revolution

Imagine filling your shopping cart at Sears, Home Depot or Zellers and then moving to the check-out counter without needing to unload anything, began a Sept. 2 National Post article about Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) by Paul Barter, vice-president of T4G Limited, a technology services company in Toronto. Instead, the clerk instantly tells you what you owe for everything in the cart, you pay, you receive an itemized list of all the products and then you leave. Sound far fetched? It’s not. It’s a technology called RFID and it is the biggest thing to hit the retail industry since the bar code 30 years ago, predicted Barter, who graduated in 2003 from the Joint Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program and begins teaching a technology strategy course at Schulich in January.

So what is RFID? A new technology, RFID consists of a tag or label embedded in merchandise with a single computer chip and an itsy-bitsy antenna. Then a radio device connected to a computer system communicates with that tag and “reads” all sorts of information like price, size, color, manufacture date, warranty and more. Retailers reduce labour costs and free employees to focus more on customer service, inventory flow, and even emergency shelf-stocking. Improved inventory control also means reduced prices and added selection for shoppers. Shoppers have shorter waits at checkouts and easier warranty service – because of all the information embedded in the chip.

TSN breeding ground for sports reporters

The Sports Network turned into a fine developing ground for broadcasters, reported The Toronto Sun and Brockville Recorder and Times Sept. 1 in a feature on TSN’s 20th anniversary. Take ESPN/ABC play-by-play man Mark Jones (BA ’84 in economics), who was a member of the York University basketball team in 1984 when he was interviewed by TSN’s Peter Watts. “I pulled on his jacket after the interview [following his final game] and asked him if there were any opportunities for students,” Jones said. “[Watts] told me to call him next week and he hooked me up with [then-TSN producer] Scott Moore. [Within a few] days, I was an editorial assistant.” With his brother – Toronto basketball analyst Paul Jones (BSc ’80 in physical education), who started at TSN because he couldn’t land a school job after teacher’s college – working alongside him, Mark Jones moved up to Sportsdesk host before taking the ESPN/ABC gig in 1990.

Beating back mush brain

Being bilingual can keep you mentally sharp as you age, reported Maclean’s in a feature on memory in the Sept. 6 issue. “It’s like going to brain gym,” said Ellen Bialystok, a research psychologist with York’s Faculty of Arts. She’s now trying to determine whether learning a second language later in life will also tone the mental muscles, and she’s optimistic it will. That’s because the brain’s way of coordinating two or more languages engages different high-end parts at the same time. And it is precisely these parts, she says, “that tend to slip away with normal healthy aging.”

On air

  • Sergei Plekhanov, a political science professor with the York Centre for International & Security Studies in the Faculty of Arts who specializes in the politics of southern Russia, commented on the seizure by armed attackers of a Russian school near the border of Chechnya, on CBC Radio’s national “As It Happens” and on CBC Radio Winnipeg’s “Information Radio” Sept. 1. Plekhanov said the attack reflects the escalating terror and the attempt of rebels to destabilize the politics of Russia. It follows an election in Chechnya where Moscow’s favourite candidate won.
  • Wes Cragg, Director of the Business Ethics Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed A Corporate Kleptocracy, Hollinger International’s audit committee report alleging Conrad Black’s offences against the corporation, on “All in a Day” on CBC Radio Ottawa Sept. 1.