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Disappointed in RFID Adoption?
The industry needs to look beyond price and fix these other issues.
The average project requires so many different suppliers and vendors that projects are difficult to manage, and the lack of any scale means the infrastructure deployment cost is significant. The project risk and the time required for completion increase with each supplier involved. A lack of systems integrators with RFID expertise has placed the bulk of this integration risk onto the end customer. It is like asking someone to buy all of the pieces of a vehicle separately and then build his own car. Although the industry is making an effort to assure interoperability by adding more standards, this problem will not be solved until the burden of system design, procurement of all necessary components, and installation and support is removed from the end customer and consolidated with a single vendor—an RFID integrator.
Cost of Infrastructure Replacement
Although these semiconductor companies brought significant expertise in physics, technology and chip-level design, they lacked system-level experience and, more importantly, knowledge of current practices in the auto-ID industry. As a result, there was a significant technology gap between the output of RFID readers and the infrastructure that customers had to support bar-code scanners.
Software engineers with experience in high-level application and database software have attempted to bridge the gap with RFID middleware. This software has often been expensive, frequently limiting the end applications that a customer can use without significant customization expense, and typically has poor real-time performance. Creating and positioning RFID as a standalone solution, separate from the technology customers currently use, forces customers to repurchase perfectly good infrastructure. Additionally, RFID becomes an all-or-nothing transition from bar codes.
In contrast, look instead at the transition from bar-code scanners that use lasers to those employing image sensors—a nearly seamless transition with rapid adoption. The key difference is the backward compatibility and similar connectivity to existing infrastructure. Although the transaction between the target (a bar code) and the infrastructure equipment (the scanner) requires a completely different technology and front end, the back ends of these two types of bar-code scanners are the same. This allows customers to integrate either technology into their existing infrastructure, both technologies to be used in hybrid solutions, and one technology to be swapped for another without changing the infrastructure as the customer's needs change over time.
To fix this problem, the industry needs RFID solutions that achieve both interoperability and backward compatibility with the bar-code-driven infrastructure that evolved over the last 40-plus years.
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