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What Is RFID Missing?

Posted By RFID Journal, 12.23.2015

The technology has no competitor. In one of your polls, respondents said that radio frequency identification is not appreciated, yet industry desperately seeks a solution. The patch antenna may be the problem, as it was not designed for RFID. What do you think?




Thank you for submitting such an interesting question. I will address what I think is missing, but first let me address your comment that RFID has no competition, as I wouldn't agree with that viewpoint. It is true that no other technology can do the many of the things that RFID systems are capable of doing, at least not in a cost-effective way. RFID allows companies to capture data automatically with no human involvement, and also enables machine-to-machine communication and facilitates transactions. But RFID does compete with other solutions. In health care, for example, many hospitals are investing in switching to digital patient records, while putting off investing in real-time location systems and inventory-management solutions. And manufacturers may opt to invest in robots before investing in RFID.

RFID is also competing with the status quo. Change is difficult, and most businesses don't change until they see those around them change. Change involves risk. Imagine that you are the head of inventory management at some company and you recommend installing an RFID system. Now imagine that the project is mismanaged and winds up failing, losing your company $750,000. You'd probably lose your job as a result, whereas if you were to just muddle along with the system you have, you wouldn't put your job at risk. I suggest you read Geoffrey Moore's book Crossing the Chasm if you want to understand the technology adoption life-cycle. Everything he writes about, I see happening in the RFID market.

In any case, I do not believe the patch antenna is the problem, for two reasons. One is that no one complains to me that they are having trouble reading tags. End users seem very pleased with the performance of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) systems, as well as passive low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF) and active RFID systems. The second is that I have seen many antenna innovations over the years, and none have caught on and replaced the patch antenna.

So what's missing? An integrated solution. In most cases, a manufacturer cannot go to a single company and buy a complete product or integrated solution—hardware, software and services. Instead, they often need to hire one company to get tags, another for readers, a third for software, and a fourth to install the hardware and integrate the software with their existing systems. This greatly increases a project's risk. If a company could buy a complete product, it would greatly reduce its risk—but even then, the product must be proven to deliver value before it will be adopted on a large scale.

I believe the industry is moving toward more integrated solutions and making RFID less risky to deploy. As that happens, adoption will accelerate.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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