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Fear of RFID

The theories presented in the book "Freakonomics" might explain what is preventing more CEOs from embracing RFID and other new technologies.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 19, 2011Running a small business does not give me much time to read books and magazine articles unrelated to radio frequency identification. But I recently picked up Freakonomics, the wildly popular book by economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, which I'd always wanted to read. To my surprise, this publication might just explain why companies are slow to adopt new technologies, including radio frequency identification.

First, let's review how new technologies are adopted, which I've written about a lot over the past few years (see The [RFID] World According to Moore). Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, suggests that visionaries embrace a new technology and help creators of that technology to build early prototype products. Then, early adopters can begin to use these solutions to solve a business problem.

Once the solution is mature, a technology company will then emerge as the go-to provider for that solution—the "gorilla," in Moore's terms. At the same time, once a sufficient number of early adopters have proved that the technology works, other businesses will begin to adopt the solution with an almost herd-like mentality. (All focus on return on investment is lost, and companies just adopt because everyone else is doing it.)

In a chapter about parenting in Freakonomics, the authors discuss the role of fear in decision-making. They point out that many parents would prevent their children from playing at a friend's house if they know that the child's father kept a gun in the home. But they would never think of preventing their kid from playing at a friend's house if the family had a pool—even though more people die by drowning in pools than are fatally shot (even in the United States, where there are more guns than people.)

The authors conclude that familiarity—or the lack thereof—plays into our fears. Parents know what swimming pools are, they know the risks and they are willing to accept the possibility that their child might drown in a pool, because they understand that the risks are small. Being unfamiliar with guns, however, they might not comprehend the risks, and thus might make an irrational choice.


Jay Oza 2011-09-20 05:56:58 PM
Excellent article When some is scared they don't make a decision or a wring one. It is up to the RFID vendor to make the customer comfortable. We ran into this with a large customer, but slowly we were able to make them comfortable with the technology and jointly developed a solution for their needs. It is being done, but you gotta to know how. That is the challenge. I have found RFID very easy to sell, if done with business in mind and mimic the customer's language.
HRAFN AS HRAFN 2011-09-21 09:32:00 AM
Excellent article and comment. I totally agree. By focusing on business, and explaining RFID is off-the-shelf technology, the sales can be done. Another effect I like to see is when it turns out the customer actually have RFID tags in daily operation in advance. One only have to talk about how existing RFID infrastructure (e.g. rfid on the pallets), can be creating value for the customer, instead of having to discuss investing in tag-infrastructure. I believe there will be more of these meetings comin up, as the RTI industry is adopting the technology at faster and faster pace. Geir Vevle. CTO HRAFN

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