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Disappointed in RFID Adoption?
The industry needs to look beyond price and fix these other issues.
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
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.
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