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More Industries Approach the RFID Inflection Point

At this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, it was clear that a lot is happening—not only in apparel retail, but also in aerospace and electronics.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 09, 2012I was not surprised to find that there was a lot of interest in item-level apparel tracking at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012, which took place last week in Orlando, Fla. For the past year or so, all of the buzz in the RFID industry has been about American Apparel, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Wal-Mart and others that have rolled out large-scale deployments, or have announced plans to do so. What did surprise me was the amount of buzz regarding aerospace and electronics.

There were many attendees from the aerospace industry at the conference, and the aerospace sessions were packed. Airbus has been a leader in deploying RFID on an enterprise scale (see Airbus Leads the Way), and Boeing is working hard to catch up (see Boeing to Launch RFID Program for Airlines in February). Suppliers of both airplane manufacturers are tagging parts, and many are now looking to leverage the technology internally.


The buzz around electronics was driven mostly by the announcement at the event that Intel has developed a platform for embedding RFID in electronics, and is linking it to Intel's microprocessor. The benefit is that manufacturers can disable the device during transit, and then enable it at the point of sale without opening the box, which promises to reduce theft. In addition, retailers, IT departments and others can send commands to the device in order to customize it to a user's particular needs without opening the box (Intel won this year's RFID Journal Award for Best Use of RFID to Enhance a Product or Service—see RFID Journal Announces Winners of Its Sixth Annual Awards).

How many device manufacturers will adopt the platform remains to be seen, but if many do—and given Intel's clout, that seems likely—it could push RFID into the electronics sector in a big way. The technology could be used not only to add value to the device, but also for tracking work-in-process and monitoring the devices within the supply chain and at retail stores. There was also a great session discussing how Jabil is embedding RFID in printed circuit boards to track work-in-process, which could be a model for electronics manufacturers.

Those were the big takeaways for me, but there were others. As in 2011 and 2010, roughly 2,500 people attended this year's event, which means we have not yet crossed the chasm and reached the point at which many companies feel they must deploy RFID solutions. But as in the past two years, many exhibitors reported that end users visiting their booths were extremely knowledgeable and focused on specific business issues they wanted to resolve. Several exhibitors said they had signed deals or were given verbal commitments—a trend that began last year.

USER COMMENTS

Eef de Ferrante 2012-04-13 02:25:14 AM
RFID and Packaging The biggest players in the food- pharma and cosmetics supply chain are looking more closely to RFID possibilities. At AIPIA (the intelligent packaging association) there is a lot of interest especially from the retail side of the supply chain. The obvious questions (return on investment for example) need still to be answered, but the urge to implement high tech in packaging is sure. According AIPIA it will take another 1 or 2 years, but definitely we are heading towards intelligent packaging and the demand and willingness to pay for it at the end-user level will be proven. For more information www.aip-worldcongress.org

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