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RFID World '08: Now You See It...

There are plenty of magic acts in Las Vegas, but at the RFID World '08 show held there last week, it was the exhibitors who seemed intent on making RFID disappear. Starting with the press conference that opened the event, exhibitors spoke of the need for RFID technology to "disappear" into complete solutions so adoption could grow.
Sep 15, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 15, 2008—There are plenty of magic acts in Las Vegas, but at the RFID World 2008 show held there last week, it was the exhibitors who seemed intent on making RFID disappear. Starting with the "Gloves Off" press conference that opened the event, vendors and analysts spoke of the need for RFID technology to "disappear" into complete solutions so adoption could grow. On the exhibit floor, exhibitors practiced what was preached: at most of the larger booths, products took a back seat to partners and solutions.

Vendors also made themselves disappear. There were 106, down from 190 the year before, according to show organizers. Most of the exhibitors who were there didn't make major new product, partner or customer announcements. Attendance was steady, but the show floor rarely seemed busy or crowded. Still, a number of exhibitors noted that while the quantity of foot traffic wasn't high, the quality was consistent with past years. Together these factors created a quieter atmosphere than previous shows. RFID World '08 is not guilty of generating the type of hype that prospective RFID users have grown so weary of.

"RFID should really go away," said Joe White of Motorola during the opening press conference. "The industry as a whole needs to evolve to talk about business solutions, not RFID technology."

Motorola's own booth reflected this philosophy. The company announced only a few new regulatory certifications for existing products, and devoted much of its booth space to partners with solutions for specific industries and applications.

ThingMagic took a similar approach, and its booth had an innovative partner product that may have easily been overlooked. Lexmark featured a laser printer with a ThingMagic passive UHF read/write module embedded inside it. The product is significant because it may be the first non-thermal printer than can print and encode on demand. Thermal printers excel at producing labels and receipts, but few models can support media greater than six inches wide, so they are limited in their ability to produce forms and documents. Now users can encode RFID inlays embedded within sheet-size plain paper. Lexmark is targeting the growing document management market.

Look for more innovation in the printer/encoder segment. Zebra Technologies showed a prototype of what is believed to be the first mobile printer/encoder, which it plans to release later this year. The thermal model can be mounted to a forklift or carried by a user on a strap or belt.

Lexmark's laser printer/encoder is already being used by ChronoTrack Systems to produce the runner's bibs used in its RFID-enabled race timing system. The company is less than a year old and has already been selected for some major events, including the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon. In keeping with the event theme, it did not have its own booth, but instead demonstrated the solution with its RFID technology provider, Impinj. Another Impinj partner and booth tenant, Terso, demonstrated its RFID-enabled medical cabinets, which were among several cabinet, portal and smart-shelf systems being exhibited throughout the show.

Such products are examples of how RFID is being integrated into application-focused solutions. As vendors continue to make RFID technology and integration concerns disappear, they should be able to conjure more visitors to their booths.

For a recap of more news and announcements from the show, see:
  1. RFID World 2008 Announcement Wrap-Up, Part 1 of 2
  2. RFID World 2008 Announcement Wrap-Up, Part 2 of 2
  3. 2008 RFID Excellence in Business Awards Announced
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