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Sanjay Sarma, MIT's AutoID Center

Normally, when somebody says robots, you think R2-D2. But Sanjay Sarma, a robotics expert and professor of engineering at MIT, has taken the science of sensors down to the micro level. As a result, he's accelerating the pace of e-commerce. Sarma, 35, has helped create a new technology to track razor blades, shampoo bottles, and more from the factory to the warehouse to the supermarket shelf. The system, called RFID, is based on chips that can be read remotely via wireless Internet connections. It's designed to keep shelves full as well as reduce loss, theft, and inventory costs for retailers and their suppliers.

It is becoming the technology standard for the entire retail industry. Sarma believes that someday "anything you have to touch and count will have RFID tags." Maybe then you won't lose your cell phone.

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