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A Sad Comparison of RFID vs. DVD Adoption—and What to Do About It

Here is why passive UHF RFID adoption rates have been so disappointing, despite all the real benefits the technology has to offer.
By Jack Romaine

When laid out this way, are you surprised that RFID hasn't met with enthusiasm and has regularly failed to meet or exceed forecasts? Of course, I exaggerate a little—in the RFID market, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who would actually help you select the components that go together!

So how do we fix this?

The RFID industry needs to stop focusing on reader and tag price as the problem, and instead integrate the features and intelligence that customers need to make it a usable product. No problems are solved with dumb terminal readers—they are solved with complete solutions. A complete RFID solution requires design, readers, antennas, tags, brackets or enclosures, cabling, RFID middleware, application software, software integration services, installation services and training. Let's integrate more of these into an easy-to-buy package. In other words, we need more technology integration, and more solutions that combine hardware and software. Plus, we need more integrators with real RFID experience

If you are an end customer, seek out an experienced RFID systems integrator. Do this early, because proper design of the system is half the battle. Don't deal with any integrator who tells you it has to be 100 percent RFID or nothing. The best system generally uses both RFID and bar codes. There are RFID solutions that are interoperable and backward-compatible with bar codes out there. Don't deal with any integrator claiming that you need to replace your business-intelligence software—whether enterprise resource planning (ERP), asset tracking, warehouse-management system (WMS) or material requirements planning (MRP)—to make RFID work. There are RFID solutions that bolt directly onto your existing software without the need for additional software expense or the replacement of perfectly good infrastructure.

Jack Romaine is a member of the AIDC 100 and has decades of experience in automatic identification. He is the coinventor of a couple of integrated RFID solutions and an automated system of contactless dimensioning. Romaine started the RFID group at Accu-Sort Systems in 1997 and is now the CEO of Element ID. He also worked as a sell-side financial analyst for SG Cowen, covering semiconductors and RFID, and was Bloomberg Markets Magazine's Semiconductor Analyst of the Year in 2003.

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