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Progress and Perseverance on Exhibit at Last Week's RFID Show

Last week the seventh annual RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition was held in Orlando, Florida. RFID Update was there, and judging by its own research and the many opinions shared by exhibitors and attendees at the event, this year's RFID Journal LIVE! was a fairly good show -- no small feat in this economy.
May 04, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 4, 2009—Last week the seventh annual RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition was held in Orlando, Florida, from Monday April 27th through Wednesday the 29th. RFID Update was there, and judging by its own research and the many opinions shared by exhibitors and attendees at the event, this year's RFID Journal LIVE! was a fairly good show -- no small feat in this economy.

The most-watched metric of all, attendance, was roughly 2,200 according to official estimates. The figure represents a decline of between 25 and 30 percent from 2008's 3,000 attendees. That decline didn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, however, given that conferences across all industries are reporting smaller attendance as corporations cut travel expenses for their employees.

Despite fewer attendees, exhibitors RFID Update spoke with were generally pleased with the quality of end users passing by their booths. The consensus was that if corporations paid for their employees to attend the show, they were fairly intent on moving forward with an RFID project or application in the near term. That translated to serious and knowledgeable attendees, not the "tire kickers" so common in years past.

As for the news and technology announced at the show, there were a couple themes of note. First, the adoption of real-time locationing continues to grow and the technologies driving it continue to expand. Mojix, which made a splash at last year's show with the introduction of its long-range passive RFID solution, introduced an RTLS software application that enables more rapid and affordable deployment of its technology. ODIN technologies launched a solution to quickly equip shipping containers with real-time locationing using a combination of passive and active RFID, WiFi, cellular, and satellite communication. WiFi-based RTLS solution provider Ekahau added GPS capabilities to its tags. Meanwhile, Israeli startup SandLinks got some buzz with its just-released UWB-based RTLS system-on-a-chip that claims 40- to 150-meter read range with sub-one-meter accuracy (see SandLinks Announces Combo Tag-Reader RTLS Chips).

Also of note was the continued focus on retail, which remains a hot sector as vendors of all stripes offer solutions to reduce inefficiencies by increasing visibility. RFID infrastructure provider Reva announced Reva-4-Retail, a new product based on the company's flagship TAP appliance that provides item-level inventory tracking and stock management for stores. Big names like Checkpoint, Motorola, and ADT were all showcasing solutions aimed at helping retailers cut shrink, speed up the inventorying process, and illuminate that notorious "black hole" of retail, the store backroom. There was an inventory management system for retail promotional items developed with technology from Alliance, Seeonic, and UPM Raflatac. UWB-based RTLS hardware manufacturer Time Domain was demonstrating a solution with partner ShopperTrak that showed the real-time movement of tagged shopping carts at a client grocery store.

As for end users, Switzerland's clothing retailer Charles Vögele presented its end-to-end deployment at a keynote session on Monday evening. The deployment tracks goods from supplier factories in China all the way through to the point of sale at stores in Slovenia. American clothier American Apparel announced that the success to date of its item-level tagging initiative has led it to expand the program.

The economy itself was a big presence at the show. Many acknowledged that client projects are being pushed out and that business has slowed. One of the pessimists RFID Update spoke with predicted that some of this year's exhibitors won't be around next year, including notably high-profile companies. Many expressed the view that 2009 will prove to be a make-or-break year for a lot of companies. Those that can weather the storm will be in a great position when the economy recovers. But in the meantime there will be casualties, large and small.

On the other hand, a number of firms that were all but unknown (or nonexistent) just a few years ago are now among the most dynamic. RFID tag designer and manufacturer Confidex introduces new tag products on a frequent basis to keep up with what the company indicates is strong demand from a diverse range of industries and applications. RFID Global Solution, which has been around in various forms for a few years, was relaunching itself at the show. That company counts a handful of respected industry veterans among its management, including Joe Leone, Diana Hage, and Joe White. Invengo's booth was very busy. The 300-person Chinese RFID hardware manufacturer made a splash earlier this year as it entered the North American market with aggressive tag pricing and the opening of a Washington, DC-area office. Tego was showcasing its flagship tag, the TegoTag, which just became available a few months ago. TegoTag offers 32 kilobytes of memory, hundreds of times larger than traditional Gen2 tags.

All in all, this year's RFID Journal LIVE! was a good show amid a very rough climate. While the industry has not escaped the ravages of the economy, positive signs abounded that adoption continues and that RFID companies are persevering with the development of new and better solutions.
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