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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

I could go on, but you get the point. Is it possible that this waste will never be addressed? I don't think so. The global economy is too competitive, and there is simply too much money to be made if companies find a way to eliminate waste.

Is there another technology that can make a huge dent in the waste? I would be doing our readers a disservice if I claimed that RFID was categorically the answer to all of their inefficiencies. Other technologies—used alone or in conjunction with RFID—can deliver benefits as well. GPS, 2-D bar codes and video all have a role to play in reducing waste and boosting efficiencies. And, of course, data analytics is very important.

But as I see it, RFID will have the biggest impact on waste and inefficiencies. GPS has its limits. It can only be used outdoors. It's too expensive and bulky to track, say, a shirt or a small parts container. 2-D bar codes require that a person orient each bar code to a scanner, and labor is very expensive. Even if creating algorithms enabling computers to interpret videos becomes cheaper and easier, video cannot tell you that there is one pair of jeans missing from a closed box, or that there are no medium shirts on a shelf, or that one of a hundred black suitcases needs to be diverted to a flight headed for Dubai.

RFID can't do everything, and it is not a panacea for all business problems and poor execution. But like the Internet, it enables companies to do things never possible before, and it will deliver transformational change over time.

Are there deployment obstacles that cannot be overcome? I don't think there are. It might never be possible to read every tag every single time due to the laws of physics, but throughout the 13 years I've been covering RFID, I have never seen an issue that can't be overcome with good system design. Many years ago, when passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags could not be used in the presence of water or metal, I believed RFID firms would develop innovative products to get around those challenges, because they could make money doing so. That faith was born out. We now have companies tracking slabs of steel and pallets containing cases of water bottles.

Having been at this for more than a decade, I am more convinced than ever that RFID will become ubiquitous. Nothing I have witnessed would suggest otherwise. So you can call my conviction well-informed faith.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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