RFID pioneer Charlie Walton dies, aged 89

Charlie Walton, the man responsible for the popularisation of Radio Frequency Identification - RFID - technology, has been confirmed as having died earlier this month aged 89.

Although the technology had existed prior to Walton's patent for a "portable radio frequency emitting identifier", issued by the US Patents and Trademarks Office in 1983 as a follow-up to his 1973 patent on the same subject, modern RFID implementations owe much to Walton's work.

RFID systems, where a passive 'tag' harvests energy received by a compact antenna to transmit a unique code identifying itself, have since found plenty of uses: door entry systems, one of Walton's original suggestions, are in common use, while the Oyster Card payment system used for transit in London features credit-card sized RFID tags.

Born in 1921, Walton grew up in Maryland and New York State, and graduated from the private Quaker boarder George School in 1939. Walton went on to receive a degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1943, followed by a Masters degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Following his service in - what else? - the Army Signals Corps, Walton worked at computing giant IBM's research and development laboratories until 1970, when he left to pursue his own fortunes with the foundation of Proximity Devices.

While Proximity Devices would produce commercialised versions of the technology detailed in Walton's patent, it would find itself competing with a range of companies that saw the same opportunities for a contactless ID system as had Walton.

Walton's death comes as RFID - along with its successor, the two-way Near-Field Communications technology - enjoys a boom period, with PayPal predicting that contactless payment systems powered by mobile phones will have all but replaced the traditional wallet by 2016.

VentureBeat, reporting on Walton's passing, says a memorial service will be held on the 18th December at 3PM at the Los Gatos Unitarian Fellowship, California.