If you’ve ever used an e-pass on a toll road to bypass the booth, you can thank Dr. Mario Cardullo. You can also thank him for how easy it has become to track heavy equipment and packages in real time, locate shoes in the storeroom of a retail store and rotate time-sensitive inventory, such as medications, among many other things. That’s because Dr. Cardullo created the radio frequency identification (RFID) schema that ultimately solidified the technology’s applicability in these use cases – and dozens more. In fact, he is revered by many as the “father” of RFID, and best known as the patent holder for the first modern passive RFID system.
But Dr. Cardullo wasn’t trying to make history when he started working on the first RFID encoder. Nor was he trying to get rich. He never made any money off the patent, and says the real payment comes from knowing what he has contributed to society.
“You don’t invent to make money,” he told our team when we spoke recently. “You do it to solve problems.”
Fortunately for us, he met an IBM engineer on a plane that had a problem he realized he could solve: how to transmit data from rail cars passing by to a receiver to report their status. After that day, Dr. Cardullo started to recognize many other problems that RFID could solve beyond the traditional (and almost exclusive) military applications it was known for at that time. It could be used to improve daily consumer experiences ranging from driving to banking to healthcare, as well as business reporting and accountability. Check out the original business plan Dr. Cardullo presented to investors in 1971 for his passive RFID system: