Profile: David Armstrong and Chris Turner of RFIP Ltd

Russell Smith profiles the experts in radio barcoding
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David Armstrong and Chris Turner established RFIP Ltd in 2005 (; 01869 255 772).

Business opportunities built around a new technology are often restricted to large companies with large R&D budgets. But small businesses can find a role among the bigger players when the founders have that most valuable of assets: "know-how". RFIP Ltd was launched by David Armstrong, 55, and Chris Turner, 54, to exploit their expertise in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

RFID technology may be thought of as "radio barcoding" and can be used to track anything from the movement of shipments to the progress of components within an industrial process. The principle is straightforward: a reading device uses radio signals to communicate with an electronic transponder, commonly known as a "tag". But unlike a barcode, the RFID reading device can scan the tag from a distance and without human intervention. The tag can also be programmed to store other data, such as the temperature of a product.

The technology for RFID for "item management" started in South Africa more than 20 years ago but it wasn't until the late Nineties that it took off. The challenge was that "pockets" of RFID technology emerged in different countries - not very useful when tracking shipments. But it was this weakness that gave the pair their business opportunity: they had the expertise to connect these pockets together. "There was a real gap in skills and knowledge," says Armstrong, "which opened up a significant opportunity for us."

The pair now consult to a number of large companies that need the technology to work across international borders. Although the rules and regulations surrounding RFID differ around the world, they can build systems that will be equally at home in Torquay and Tokyo. And at the other extreme, the pair has helped companies to monitor progress within complex internal processes. "Which can lead to significant improvements in both efficiency and safety," explains Turner.

Closer to home, a PC-linked reading device could check all of the tagged products in your shopping as you enter your front door. Green miles, country of origin, sell-by dates and recipes could all be uploaded onto your computer. The applications seem endless; which probably explains why RFIP Ltd's order book is growing so rapidly.