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Disappointed in RFID Adoption?

The industry needs to look beyond price and fix these other issues.
By Jack Romaine

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
The RFID industry evolved separately from the rest of the automatic-identification sector. The technology was first driven by semiconductor companies with a primary interest in the volume of tags that could be sold. In order to sell tags, these firms began producing reference designs and chips for the infrastructure, or reader, side of the transaction.

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.

USER COMMENTS

Stefano Coluccini 2015-07-10 05:44:51 AM
Hi Jack, very nice article. Anyway do not completely agree on the comparison you make with barcode technology. It is true that a barcode is much more simple to implement but that would be the same for and RFID system if you look for the same way of working: single item scanning. The point is that RFID opens new possibilities, otherwise it make no sense to invest more to obtain the same result. In my opinion bulk reading is one of the key feature and it requires a different SW (or a middleware) because it is a bulk reading, not because it is RFID, isn't it ?
Suresh SAWHNEY 2015-07-12 10:48:59 AM
Hi Jack Great article - many of the points you have brought out are extremely valid. The need of the hour is not a pure "middleware" but one which also has business rules built in to be able to provide standalone solutions. And yes, a single point of contact for implementation - for RFID I would not all him a System Integrator but a Solution Provider who designs, supplies and implements a full solution -including full RF service. Unfortunately the RF engineer is a rare breed which also has led to RFID getting a bad name. We at Dolphin RFID are moving ahead with this business model and are seeing a lot of traction -not only in India but also internationally through our Channel Partners using our complete solutions including the middleware. And the middleware - Edge Wizard - is cost effective , backward compatible to Bar Code infrastructure and-also IOT ready. As we are seeing a lot of traction, maybe this is thee auto go.

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