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Perception Lags Reality

What many business executives think about RFID today was true a few years ago, but is no longer valid.
By Mark Roberti
Mar 07, 2011I am often asked to speak to associations regarding radio frequency identification. I try to do this whenever I can, because I believe most companies, government agencies and organizations can benefit from employing the technology. It's also good for our industry. This week, I will speak at a meeting of the New England Society of Clinical Engineering (NESCE) about RFID-based real-time location systems (RTLS).

This is not just an opportunity for attendees to learn about RFID—it's also a chance for me to learn what potential end users think about the technology, what might be preventing them from deploying a solution and so forth.

I often hear views from people that are out of date. They think ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags don't work at all in the presence of water and metal, when, in fact, tags have been developed that can work well around those materials. They think Wal-Mart Stores has abandoned its RFID efforts, when, in fact, the company will tag and track at least 250 million clothing items this year. And they think there are no solutions for their industry when, in fact, vendors have developed many industry-specific applications.

It's no surprise that perception lags reality. This is usually the case with new technologies. In the beginning, there is a lot of hype, and perception is way out in front of reality. Remember all those articles claiming RFID was about to replace the bar code? When reality fails to live up to hype, there's only an occasional negative story about that technology's weaknesses, so folks forget about the technology, believing it doesn't work. Meanwhile, vendors refine and improve the technology, and work with visionary end users to develop solutions that can actually be used by businesses.

That's been happening with RFID for the past few years, and we're now seeing some terrific technology advancements. It's an ongoing process. Just look at the 10 finalists for our annual Best in Show RFID Journal Award, to be given to the best new product exhibited at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011, being held on Apr. 12-14, in Orlando, Fla. (see Finalists Unveiled for the Fifth Annual RFID Journal Awards).


Patrick Sweeney 2011-03-08 06:57:08 AM
Parasites beware Mark touches on some valid points. At ODIN we passed the 500 project mark recently and we have seen tremendous value because of the maturity of the technology. Any role in an organization that is parasitic - that sucks the value out of producing something can be replaced with automation led by RFID. Those roles usually involve counting, finding, measuring or auditing. The technology works better and better each month and the Fortune 500s are getting great value from it today.

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