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Disappointed in RFID Adoption?

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

Environmental Dependence
In my view, the most difficult problem to overcome will be the technology's environmental dependence. By this, I refer to the fact that no two RFID deployments are exactly alike since the 915 MHz RF energy used in the RFID transaction is impacted by the building and surroundings in which you deploy it. This impacts both the tags and the infrastructure. Tag vendors have made significant progress throughout the past five to 10 years in making the tags perform better in the presence of moisture and metal.

Service has improved to a level at which customers can now send sample items to a tag supplier and have the engineers there choose the proper tag and ideal placement. However, on the infrastructure side, customers obviously cannot send out their shipping dock to determine the proper power settings, shielding requirements, antenna selection, or mounting and angling of antennas.

This means an experienced RFID engineer or technician needs to physically visit the site. Ideally, customers enlist this level of assistance at the design stage so that business processes and technology capabilities can be balanced. In addition, this allows the selection of the correct reader, antennas and solution form factor. Many projects have failed and many customers have been left unhappy because the site-specific impacts were not dealt with. In my view, this factor alone has caused much of the negative publicity regarding RFID performance.

Again, compared with RFID, a bar-code deployment is much easier. Installation focuses on easily measurable distances and angles, and setup in all but the most complex applications does not require a Ph.D. or years of experience. In many applications, bar-code equipment can be purchased from distributors and deployed by the customer. This is unlikely to ever be the case for RFID. However, the industry can do a lot more to minimize this problem. Better, experienced systems integrators are needed, and customer awareness of the importance of proper upfront design and installation support must be increased.

Enabling Wider Adoption
Anyone who has been involved in the RFID industry knows that the rate of adoption has been a disappointment. Focusing on RFID tag pricing to solve the adoption problem is a mistake, especially since we will likely see diminishing price reductions from today's tag cost. Instead, the industry should focus on fixing the underlying problems with infrastructure and deployment.

Specifically, we need further industry consolidation, better full-turnkey-capable systems integrators with RFID experience, an evolution of the RFID back end that is compatible with and embraces 40-plus years of bar-code auto-ID technologies, and improved customer education to help users understand that solution design and the deployment site greatly impact performance.

Jack Romaine, the CEO of Element ID Inc., is a member of AIDC 100 and has decades of experience in auto-ID. He is the co-inventor of a few integrated RFID solutions and an automated system of contactless dimensioning. He started the RFID group at Accu-Sort Systems in 1997, worked as a sell-side financial analyst for SG Cowen covering semiconductors and RFID, and was named Bloomberg Markets magazine's "Semiconductor Analyst of the Year" in 2003.

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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