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RFID By Any Other Name

Some RFID solution providers don’t want to use the term “radio frequency identification” because it has gotten a bad rap, but that’s a self-limiting strategy.
By Mark Roberti
Jul 16, 2018

Many providers of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) ran away from the term RFID after the technology went into the chasm around 2007 or 2008. Some still have decided to eschew the term, rather than try to rehabilitate it. That’s a mistake.

First, let me explain what I mean by going “into the chasm.” Geoffrey Moore, a consultant and venture capitalist, wrote a seminal work on how new technologies are adopted, called Crossing the Chasm. In it, Moore explained that new technologies are not adopted along a smooth bell curve, where more and more companies or people use it until it reaches critical mass and adoption explodes.

Instead, Moore said there is a chasm between visionaries who embrace a new technology before it’s ready to for mass adoption and the masses of companies that are conservative and won’t take a chance on new technologies. When a new technology doesn’t deliver on the early hype, it goes into the chasm and mainstream companies stay away from it.

This happened to RFID in the 2007 and 2008 period. The positive articles in the mainstream press that we saw in 2005 and 2006 gave way to many negative articles saying RFID doesn’t work as advertised and is too difficult to deploy. RFID companies worked hard and invested millions of dollars to improve the quality of the tags and readers, but instead of touting those improvements and burnishing RFID’s image, many ran away from it.

RFID Journal continued to write objectively about the technology and successful deployments so that our readers could get objective information and make good business decisions about when and where to use RFID. But to this day, many companies refuse to talk about RFID, even though they sell RFID solutions. The result is that RFID still has a negative reputation among many retailers, manufacturers and others.

This is unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for end users that are missing out on opportunities to use RFID to improve their businesses and it’s unfortunate for RFID companies that are missing out on sales. I believe it’s been a strategic mistake for RFID companies that has contributed to the slow pace of adoption. Here’s why.

If you don’t talk about RFID, you can’t correct false impressions. You might make a sale here or there, but overall, the market for RFID remains artificially depressed because business people, journalists and consultants believe it doesn’t work in many cases where it does. As a result, RFID companies are trying to sell a product with a tarnished name by hiding that name, rather than working to give RFID a good name. That short-term expediency is reducing the prospects for longer-term growth.

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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