The Auto-ID Trajectory - Abstract




Traditionally the approach used to analyse technological innovation focused on the application of the techno-economic paradigm with the production function as its foundation. This thesis explores the rise of the evolutionary paradigm as a more suitable conceptual approach to investigating complex innovations like automatic identification (auto-ID) devices. Collecting and analysing data for five auto-ID case studies, (bar codes, magnetic-stripe cards, smart cards, biometrics and RF/ID transponders), it became evident that a process of migration, integration and convergence is happening within the auto-ID technology system (TS). The evolution of auto-ID is characterised by a new cluster of innovations, primarily emerging through the recombination of existing knowledge. Using the systems of innovation (SI) framework this study explores the dynamics of auto-ID innovation, including organisational, institutional, economic, regulatory, social and technical dimensions. The results indicate that for a given auto-ID innovation to be successful there must be interaction between the various stakeholders within each dimension. The findings also suggest, that the popular idea that several technologies are superseded by one dominant technology in a given selection environment, does not hold true in the auto-ID industry. Each device studied has a significant role to fulfil in the marketplace, sharing in the same technological trajectory. Trends captured from the embedded case studies provide evidence for the continued growth in the requirement for auto-ID; they also point to an ever-increasing pervasiveness in auto-ID exemplified in the quest for the human electrophorus. Finally, as new auto-ID innovations are introduced, it is important to ensure that the adequate safeguards are put in place to protect citizens against accidental or intentional misuse. This is especially true of wireless applications that make use of wearable computing and microchip implants for tracking and monitoring purposes. Engineers therefore, should act in a socially responsible manner when inventing or patenting, viewing ethical discourse as an integral component of the innovation process, despite the competitive pressures for stakeholders to be first-to-market with new solutions.