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Taking RFID's Temperature in the Middle East
The region is lagging behind in adoption, but it's clear, from RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East 2010, that some end users understand how they can benefit from the technology.
Oct 11, 2010—Last week, we held our second annual RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East event. Last year's conference was somewhat disappointing; we had great speakers, but the turnout was less than I had hoped for, due to the economic crisis and perhaps the lack of awareness in that region of radio frequency identification. We hadn't planned to hold a second event until the market matured a little, but I was approached by several vendors that felt LIVE! Middle East could help to promote awareness. So I agreed, knowing we would lose money on it.
The event this year was, shall we say, "intimate." We had approximately 85 people onsite, some of whom were from the largest automotive, oil and gas and construction companies in the region. These end users were more engaged than last year. They recognized that RFID could help them track assets, tools, vehicles, workers at hazardous job sites, and more. The questions asked of each speaker made it clear that attendees were really trying to understand how to deploy systems that would deliver value.
RFID has always suffered from vendors and systems integrators who over-promise and under-deliver. One speaker noted that salespeople will claim tags can be read from 30 to 40 meters (98 to 132 feet) away, while engineers implementing an RFID system will say the distance is actually 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet).
It's clear that the Middle East is behind, both in terms of education and in having a base of businesses that can deliver effective systems, so we'll continue to work on educating end users in the region. I think there are more services companies in that part of the world seeking to develop RFID expertise, because they recognize that there is a real business opportunity here.
The truth is that the region needs RFID, and here's why: First, most goods are imported, from seafood to apparel. That means products need to be tracked as they arrive by sea or air at ports, and as they move from ports to distribution centers, and then on to retail outlets. Given the oil wealth in the region, perhaps end users could afford to absorb the cost of inefficiencies in the supply chain. But the Middle East, like all areas of the world, has been hit hard by the global recession, and is thus less able to absorb the costs.
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