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How RFID Will Reach Mass Adoption

Solutions must become simpler to deploy and use, as well as more scalable.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 27, 2016

According to Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and other important books on the technology adoption life cycle, new technologies follow a clear and consistent path to mass adoption. First, visionaries see the great potential of a new technology and jump on board, but the vast majority of companies do not follow their lead. Instead, they wait, because the technology seems immature and risky. And the technology falls into the chasm.

Over time, companies with a compelling business problem that no other technology can solve adopt the new technology and solutions begin to mature. At some point, the technology crosses the chasm between visionaries and the "early majority." Eventually, enough companies in one industry adopt the technology that it hits critical mass and just about everyone in that industry adopts it. From there, it spreads to other industries and eventually reaches mass adoption.

Intel has created an overhead reader that is designed to be easy to deploy and use, and is relatively inexpensive. It remains to be seen if that solution will lead to industrywide adoption. (Illustration: iStockphoto)
Radio frequency identification has followed exactly this path. Walmart was an early visionary, along with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and a few other organizations. But the vast majority of companies did not follow their lead, and in 2007 RFID plunged into the chasm. Since then, we have seen companies across many industries deploy the technology to solve specific business problems, including lost or misplaced assets, inventory inaccuracies and shipping issues.

Retail is one industry that has embraced RFID more than all others, because virtually all retailers share a common business problem—inaccurate inventory data and resulting out-of-stocks. But only a dozen or so retailers have deployed RFID in all their stores, and the vast majority of retailers have not begun using RFID in any serious way. So what needs to happen for RFID to reach mass adoption in retail and then spread to other industries?

Moore says five conditions must exist for a technology to reach mass adoption:
• A global standard
• A problem no other technology can solve
• The "whole" product (integrated solution)
• Critical mass of end users
• A "gorilla" the market can embrace (a dominant technology provider)

In retail, there is a global standard for RFID. Virtually all retailers RFID-tracking clothing, footwear and accessories are using passive ultrahigh-frequency technology based on the ISO 18000-6C standard. There is a problem no other technology can solve (cost-effectively): lack of inventory visibility and accurate inventory data.


Juan Carlos Pinazo Neto 2016-05-13 08:48:41 AM
Well said, Mark. I saw lots of different pieces of the puzzle on my visit to RFID journal live!, but a lack of well integrated solutions. With ease if use and deploy in mind, combining hardware and software, we can change the industry for better. By the way, that's what reelyActive is doing: getpareto.com.

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