RFID tags are everywhere, but not in the places where they could really do good. Here's a useful application, I think.
Tropical rainforests are disappearing fast, through illegal logging.[see link for an update].
Controlling illegal loggers is very difficult. There are control systems that rely on
very complex chemo-analyses of the tropical hardwood, when it arrives at the end market (so when the tree's already been logged). Retroactively, illegal loggers might be punsished, but this does not happen often. The entire process is cumbersome.
The paper process, whereby a logger shows his official permit, is totally flawed, as the permits get falsified and corruption is rife.
So why not tag each tree with an RFID tag? That way they can be tracked easily and monitored from an internet-connected office anywhere on this planet. When a truck full of wood arrives at a control point in some tropical country, you just grab your satellite/internet connected RFID-reader and you check the trees to see whether they're not illegally logged. If illegal, the UN/US/EU or whichever agency, marks and blocks the tree in its database.
That way, the entire forest ecosystem can be analysed as well - from a distance.
An RFID tag costs 5 cents, a tropical hardwood tree costs hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars. And the ecosystem in its entirety is invaluable, priceless, crucial to life on this planet.
Practically speaking, I suggest to embed the tag inside the tree: just drill a tiny hole in it (the valuable trees are all big, so they can take this), embed the tag, and seal with a bioresin. The wound will heal pretty fast.
The cost of doing this is minor, compared to the gains for humanity.
Very concretely: take a Congolese worker; he makes US$110 per year today.
How much rainforest can one worker tag?
-Say we pay him US$1 per day (3 times as much as he makes today).
-One hectare of Congo forest contains about 5 valuable trees.
-Say it takes one worker a bit less than 1 hour to tag one hectare. Times 8 hours a day = say he tags 10 hectares a day, saving 50 trees and their micro-environment.
-In one year (300 working days) he does 3000 hectares = 30 square kilometres, or 15,000 important rainforest trees saved each year per worker.
-Total cost: less than US$ 1000
This must be feasible.
This might be the Halfbakery, but this time I really think someone should look into this idea!