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LIVE! 2016 and the State of RFID Adoption

Last week's event says a lot about which regions, industries and companies are employing RFID technology.
By Mark Roberti
May 10, 2016

I am fortunate to have the best view of the broad market for radio frequency identification products and services. As the editor of the world's dominant RFID news website and producer of RFID Journal LIVE!, the industry's largest conference and exhibition, I have insights into which types of companies are investigating and deploying RFID, where they are based, what industries they are from and so on. Our annual event has always been a good reflection of the state of adoption, and LIVE! 2016, held last week, suggests adoption is growing steadily, though RFID has not yet reached critical mass in any one industry.

A few basic statistics: Roughly 3,000 people attended LIVE! 2016. This year, attendees hailed from 62 countries, suggesting adoption is spreading throughout the world. RFID Journal's database contains people from more than 200 countries and territories, but from 2009 to 2014, attendees typically came from 45 to 50 countries. Last year, the number jumped to 60, and this year it went up again. Attendance from most countries went up incrementally; the number of people coming from Mexico rose by 25 percent, while attendance from Spain doubled.

Most attendees were from North America. Of those arriving from abroad, more came from Europe this year. That's partly due to the East Coast location, but it is also a result of Europe embracing RFID more rapidly than other regions.

There were more first-time attendees this year, which means more companies believe RFID can deliver benefits. Attendees came from companies in more than 27 industries—from apparel manufacturing to waste management. The largest segment, roughly 10 percent, came from manufacturing (this has always been true).

It's easy to see how committed a company is by how many attendees it sends. One airline sent more than 10 individuals to the event. Another sent five, and others sent one or two. Some airlines, of course, did not send any representatives, suggesting the industry still has work to do to convince them that RFID is a technology they should be adopting.

Attendees were highly engaged. Some years, the general sessions are packed for certain speakers and light for some of the others. This year, the room was full for all the general sessions, and the breakout sessions were better attended than in some years past.

The feedback from exhibitors was exuberant. Many told me it was the best LIVE! ever. I know they weren't just blowing smoke at me, because many upgraded to larger booths for next year. I was walking around the exhibit hall on Thursday afternoon, as the event was winding down, and there were still attendees at most booths engaged in business conversations.

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