Bruce Sterling’s book “Shaping Things” Shaping Things contemplates a future in which all objects produced in our society have microhistories that can be traced.
This is a very broad and exciting vision, and an important one if we are to become a truly sustainable society. Carlo Ratti and his team at MIT have begun to look at the microhistories at the end of the supply chain by tracking trash with a wireless, battery-powered object that reports GPS coordinates over time as it moves along with the trash. At ThingMagic, we believe that once RFID tags are economically feasible enough to add to all of our disposable products, and with RFID readers in trucks and other points in the garbage collection supply chain, we can truly start to track all objects through this part of the industrial cycle. If the product can be identified and all of its material contents known, it will allow us to have some inputs into knowing where high quality materials can be harvested in a closed-loop industrial cycle. Perhaps more importantly, consumers will be able to finally see the end of life of their consumer goods, understand their impact on our planet, and for the non-biological materials, hopefully see them cycled back into a new product, rather than lost, locked into the earth as refuse.