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Believing in RFID

My conviction that radio frequency identification technology will be adopted widely in the near future is based on the knowledge that it can reduce waste in many industries.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 07, 2014

I was at a social gathering recently when I ran into an acquaintance whom I've known for almost 20 years. "Still betting big on RFID?" he asked. I said I was. "Your blind faith in this technology is admirable, but did you ever consider the possibility that you might be wrong? I mean, lots of people thought we'd see cold fusion and flying cars by now."

I chuckled. My conviction that radio frequency identification will benefit companies and individuals is not based on blind faith. I'll explain why in a moment, but yes, I have considered the possibility that I might be wrong, or at least that there might be obstacles to adoption so great they cannot be overcome, or that an alternative technology could make RFID irrelevant. And I continue to consider that possibility. Not doing so would constitute negligence as the head of a company whose sole focus is on RFID.

My conviction that RFID will be an incredibly important technology is based on the fact that there is a tremendous amount of waste in the world, and there is no other technology that can cut that waste. Consider these facts:

• A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service stated that in the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. And the United Nations' Food Programme estimates that 50 percent of all food produced globally is never consumed. A large part of the problem is that food goes bad due to inefficiencies in the supply chain.

• Shrinkage in the United States alone costs retailers $32 billion annually, according to a recent National Retail Security Survey. A large portion of this is due to employee theft, administrative error and vendor fraud.

• Hospitals lose an estimated $5,000 per bed annually in equipment, according to a McMaster RFID Applications Laboratory study, and nurses spend roughly an hour per week searching for hospital equipment.

• Thirty million passenger bags are mishandled each year by airlines, costing the industry $3 billion.

• Seven percent of containers used to transport automobile parts for assembly are replaced each year, while 36 percent of respondents to a Joint Automotive Industry Forum survey said they experienced operational downtime due to lack of containers.

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