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RFID Starts to Go Mainstream

Fueled by success stories that are beginning to reach the general business media, the technology is now viewed as an accepted tool for companies seeking to track assets.
By Mark Roberti
May 22, 2017

One of my favorite parts of my job is talking to companies that seek to use radio frequency identification technologies to improve the way they do business. During the run-up to RFID Journal LIVE! 2017, I speak personally with many attendees who seek advice regarding which sessions they should attend and which exhibitors they should visit. These phone conversations give me unique insights into where the market is.

After the Great Recession, many RFID projects were put on hold, as companies slashed costs. But there were still firms with serious business issues that needed to be addressed. They attended LIVE! because they were losing critical assets (tape drives with customer data on them, for example), or maintenance issues were causing problems with customers, or they were losing orders because they could not ship their customers the right items.

We still have companies coming to LIVE for those reasons, but two or three years ago, things began to change. Retailers, in particular, were coming not because they were desperate about solving problem that no other technology could solve, but because they believed RFID offered benefits. These weren't bleeding-edge companies looking for an exotic new technology to try to exploit some business benefit—these were mainstream retailers coming to use a new technology that could enable them to do new things they couldn't do before (such as true omnichannel retailing).

Last year, I felt the attitude toward RFID was starting to change in other sectors as well. Manufacturers and logistics firms were asking fewer questions about the cost of the technology and whether it would work, and more about the benefits that could be achieved. This year, in every call I received, the company reaching out for help believed the technology would work in their application and would deliver real business benefits. The perception of RFID technology has finally caught up with the fact that it works well.

Geoffrey Moore states, in his seminal book Crossing the Chasm, that a technology has crossed the gap between visionaries and mainstream companies when mainstream companies accept the technology as a proven commodity. RFID is there, not just in retail, but in manufacturing, supply chain, aerospace, automotive, waste management and other sectors.

So, does this mean the technology will achieve mass adoption within a year or two? Not exactly. After a technology crosses the chasm, it needs to achieve critical mass—to reach a tipping point after which all companies simply adopt because they feel they must. I believe that retail apparel will be the first sector to reach the tipping point, and that other sectors will follow. But it's more obvious than ever before that the technology is well on its way toward being used by virtually all businesses in every industry around the world.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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