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NY Times: RFID Not Ready for Wal-Mart

The New York Times ran a story on RFID in its Monday Technology section, reporting that "the technology is not yet ready to meet the needs of either Wal-Mart or its suppliers."
Dec 27, 2004This article was originally published by RFID Update.

December 27, 2004—With January 1st less than 48 hours away, much of the press's attention is predictably focused on the final countdown to Wal-Mart's RFID mandate deadline. For its part, the New York Times ran a story in its Monday Technology section reporting that RFID "is not yet ready to meet the needs of either Wal-Mart or its suppliers." The standard litany of RFID's imperfections are cited: sub-100% read rates, high cost, and the difficulty of data integration. A vice president of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting firm Sapient is quoted as saying that "the progress has been much slower than many people anticipated, and in some cases it's stalled." The article goes on to say that "only 40" of the 100 mandated Wal-Mart suppliers will be tagging everything shipped to the retailer, and it mentions two suppliers that have postponed RFID tagging altogether due to the task's enormity.

This article's negative slant highlights a greater trend by the press to not see the big picture: Wal-Mart aimed so high with the RFID initiative precisely to allow room to accommodate entirely predictable hiccups and delays. With any technological undertaking this ambitious, problems are expected and therefore not evidence of failure. That a full 40% of mandated suppliers will be tagging 100% of shipments is phenomenal, not disappointing. And what about the additional 38 suppliers that volunteered to participate in the mandate (a point hardly noted by the Times)? That's a resounding endorsement of the initiative's merits.

Yes, RFID deployments in 2004 have been challenging and expensive. Yes, the technology is still imperfect. And yes, there have been - and will continue to be - problems. But when considered alongside the size of the undertaking, the progress to date is impressive indeed.

Read the article at New York Times
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