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Making Big Data a Big Deal

Unless companies embrace RFID, they will lack visibility into what's happening within their own organizations.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 25, 2015

Big data has been a popular buzzword for several years now. Most companies collect a lot of information from point-of-sale terminals, manufacturing or other existing systems, and some have applied data analytics to glean new insights into their business. But for the most part, big data has been more of a goal than something companies can point to as a contributor to the bottom line.

That is beginning to change as more companies in myriad industries embrace RFID. The technology is typically deployed as a tool to track and manage inventory or assets, but companies quickly realize RFID provides visibility into the what, when, where and why of critical business processes. This insight enables organizations to boost operational efficiencies and productivity, while reducing costs and improving customer service.

Mercy health system, for example, has been using an active RFID-based real-time location system to monitor mobile medical equipment. As our cover story in this issue reveals, Mercy is now exploring how to overlay RFID data with other data sources—patient treatment information, electronic health record data, mortality rate statistics and more—to improve service delivery, medical treatment capabilities and overall performance.

"It's one thing to display a map of the floor and know where all your equipment is," says Scott Richert, Mercy's VP of infrastructure. "It's another thing to understand how to buy equipment, when to maintain and replace it, and where it needs to be located to produce the best treatment and results."

The professional sports industry has always focused a great deal on data, as our Vertical Focus explores. Baseball, for instance, has long relied on the traditional stats of batting average, home runs and runs batted in, and many general managers now review players' wins above replacement, on-base plus slugging percentages and defense-independent earned run averages. In football, hockey, soccer and other sports, it's not as easy to collect data on player performance, so it's no surprise that these franchises have picked up on RFID's ability to precisely track an athlete's movements and provide feedback on a player's performance.

The Montreal Canadiens hockey team is using an RFID solution to track its players as they train, to determine what aspects of their game need improvement. The system captures a wealth of data in real time. Coaches can view the information on a laptop during a practice or game, or save it for post-session analysis. The quantified data provides them with insights into risk (understanding when an athlete is being overworked and at a greater chance of sustaining a soft-tissue injury); readiness for competition (objectively knowing how physically prepared an athlete is for a game or training); and return to play (when an injured athlete can return to competition).

There's no doubt big data is a big deal and will continue to be in most industries—information drives businesses. But until companies embrace RFID, they will not have visibility into what's happening within their own organizations, which will hamper their ability to respond to any insight big data supplies.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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