All About Asia

By Mark Roberti


In 1984, fresh out of college, I moved to Hong Kong to report on business in the Asia-Pacific region. China was dirt poor, and with the exception of Japan the region was just starting to prosper. When I moved back to the United States in 1992, the situation was far different. Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were wealthy, China was booming and the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam were starting to make real economic strides.

Asia’s economic growth has slowed somewhat since I left, but companies in Asia are highly entrepreneurial, which is partly why the region continues to enhance its position as the world’s manufacturing center. It is also eager to adopt new technologies and was one of the first regions to introduce RFID cards for use in mass transit, as building passes and for retail payments.

Asia will clearly play a critical role in the adoption of RFID. Our cover story, “RFID’s Silk Road,” looks at the major issues surrounding Asia’s role in fostering-or hindering-adoption of RFID in the global supply chain. Suppliers mandated to tag pallets and cases shipped to large customers could gain greater internal benefits by having their Asian manufacturing partners tag goods, so they can be tracked through the entire supply chain. Asia can also produce the cheap tags and interrogators companies need. But if China decides to create its own standard so Chinese companies don’t have to pay Western technology firms royalties on RFID patents, it could hold these benefits hostage.

Much of the world’s apparel and footwear is made in Asia, of course. Companies that manufacture high-value clothing want to tag items in Asia, so they can track them through the supply chain and reduce counterfeiting. Meanwhile, retailers are using RFID to better manage store inventory, which results in increased sales. This is one industry where RFID can deliver a return on investment today (see “RFID Is In Fashion“).

The RFID Alliance Lab, an independent lab, tested the first group of second-generation Electronic Product Code interrogators and found their performance to be only slightly better than that of Gen 1 (see “Choosing an EPC Gen 2 Interrogator“). That’s not to say Gen 2 products won’t live up to the high expectations many have for them; it’s just going to take some time for the manufacturers to fine tune their hardware to take advantage of all the benefits of the Gen 2 protocol.

Middleware has been around longer and continues to improve. End users now have many options for middleware that can manage interrogators, filter the data and pass it on to enterprise software applications. We took a look at the different types of middleware on the market to help you choose a product that will meet your specific needs (see “A Guide to Today’s Middleware“).

My wife, who is from Hong Kong, takes our kids back every year, but it’s been nearly 10 years since I joined them. Next year, I plan to visit my in-laws-and some of the many RFID companies in the region.

Mark Roberti

Founder and Editor