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Fast Followers, It's Time

Waiting until your main competitors have begun using RFID will put you several years behind them.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 27, 2016

RFID Journal has always been careful not to oversell radio frequency identification and not to scare end users into deploying the technology. Many trade publications push the hype in order to get more subscriptions, sell more ads and make more money. I like to make money, of course, but I began RFID Journal with an eye on the technology's long-term prospects—and with a commitment to serve end users by honestly presenting the benefits RFID can deliver, as well as the deployment challenges.

Is now the time to adopt RFID? I still believe adoption is a decision each business must make on its own. If you are in the middle of upgrading or replacing your enterprise resource planning software, for instance, then maybe not. But I think—and this issue's cover story supports my belief—that the technology has reached a point at which a well-executed deployment can deliver a great deal of value without a lot of risk (see Listen Up, Laggards!).

In some cases, the risk is in not adopting RFID. Bill Hardgrave, dean of Auburn University's Harbert College of Business and founder of the RFID Lab, wrote in a recent column: "I firmly believe retailers must adapt to an omnichannel world or they will not survive" (see Why Isn't Everyone Doing It?). And, he added, you cannot do omnichannel retailing without the visibility RFID provides.

RFID has become a corporate priority for some retailers, such as Macy's and Marks & Spencer, as well as for some aerospace and aviation companies (Airbus, Boeing and Delta Air Lines) and manufacturing firms (American Woodmark). These companies were early adopters of RFID, and they have proved the business benefits and defined the best practices.

Even utilities, which often have monopolies or limited competition, are learning that RFID can pay off (see Ground Control). The Orangeburg, S.C., Department of Public Utilities, for example, is using RFID to identify and manage utility poles and all the equipment on them. The village of Thiensville, in Wisconsin, is RFID-tracking sewage pipes, to avoid damage to the system when other entities dig near its assets.

Will your company go bankrupt if you don't adopt RFID within the next 12 months? Of course not. But it takes time to learn how to use RFID to extract the most value for your business.

Waiting until your main competitors have begun using it means being several years behind them. And that could lead to big problems. As Geoffrey Moore, an author and leading expert on technology adoption, told RFID Journal: "If you don't transform, you're going to be put out of existence."

The pace of RFID adoption is accelerating. At some point, RFID will reach a tipping point in your sector, and your company will likely need to implement the technology to stay competitive. Acting now gives your firm time to learn the best way to deploy and use RFID, to apply a thoughtful approach that delivers the most value. That seems smarter than waiting and rushing into it later. You follow?

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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