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How to Grow the RFID Market, Part 1

There is only one way to do it, which is to convert one company at a time until we achieve critical mass.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 12, 2014

Companies that sell radio frequency identification technologies often ask me how we can get more businesses interested in using RFID. This relates to my column last week, titled RFID Fantasies. Vendors would like there to be a magic bullet—something that we can say or do that will propel adoption.

In my experience, however, there is no magic bullet. Geoffrey Moore says as much in "Crossing the Chasm" and "Inside the Tornado," his seminal works on how new technologies are adopted.

I speak at many events in a wide variety of industries about the benefits RFID can deliver. Most people whom I meet at these events understand basically what RFID is and what it can do, but in many cases, their perception of the technology lags behind reality. They think Walmart pulled the plug on its case- and pallet-tagging efforts because the technology doesn't work. But that view has begun to change as people read about retailers such as Kohl's, Macy's, Marks & Spencer and Zara using RFID on a large scale (see Kohl's Rolls Out RFID for Select Product Categories at Its Stores, Macy's Expands RFID and Beacon Deployments, Marks & Spencer Leads the Way and Inditex CEO Announces RFID Expansion Plans).

Not long ago, I spoke to a group of hospital executives who were in charge of managing medical equipment. I was shocked at how much they knew about how RFID could improve asset-utilization rates, as well as eliminate time wasted by nurses searching for oxygen pumps and wheelchairs. But not one of them planned to encourage their hospitals to use an RFID-based real-time location system.

Geoffrey Moore opened my eyes to why companies won't deploy a technology they know could benefit them: It can be risky to invest in new technologies until everyone is doing it. Once others are aboard, it becomes the safe thing to do.

Until RFID becomes "safe," technology providers must sell solutions to companies that have a business problem serious enough for them to take a risk on a relatively new technology. One success story helps a solution provider to sell to others. Getting these case studies exposed is critical, which is why RFID Journal expends so much effort on speaking to end users for almost every story we publish, and on having end users speak at our online and face-to-face events.

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