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Efficiencies Drive RFID Adoption

A survey-based report from Frost & Sullivan shows that mandates trail 'improved process efficiency' as the biggest factor influencing the decision to deploy the technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 25, 2005Process efficiencies are taking the lead over retailer and government mandates in driving RFID technology adoption, according to a new study entitled "Analysis of RFID Adoption and Workforce Issues in North America." The study was conducted by market research firm Frost & Sullivan and commissioned by CompTIA, a not-for-profit IT trade organization that provides certification testing.

When asked to rate the influence of mandates, standards development and competition and other factors on their decisions to implement or consider RFID technology, survey respondents gave "improved process efficiency" the highest rating, at 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very influential. Mandates were divided into separate categories: DOD, FDA and "other," which received ratings of 2.2, 2.2 and 2.5, respectively.

Karthik Nagarajan, Frost & Sullivan
Karthik Nagarajan, RFID project leader for Frost & Sullivan and leader of the study, says this is one of the key findings of the study, as well as one of the most surprising. "Given the media attention that the mandates have had, we would have thought that mandates would be the main drivers," he says. CompTIA and Frost & Sullivan collaborated on the study to analyze the growth potential of the North American RFID market, identify end-user perspectives on RFID deployments and evaluate the need for training associated with RFID technology adoption.

A group of 510 end users, representing companies in a range of markets, including automotive, consumer goods, financial, food/beverage, health care, electronics, textiles and transportation/logistics, took the Web-based survey from May to early August. The companies consisted of current RFID users, prospective users and those that have considered and rejected RFID systems and applications. The last group was in the minority.

Respondents in the automotive industry (both vehicle manufacturers and parts suppliers) have the most aggressive RFID adoption plans, the study showed, with 59 percent of respondents from these companies saying they would deploy the technology over the next 12 months. The consumer goods industry and the transportation and logistics sectors were close behind, at 58 percent each.

To write its report, Frost & Sullivan combined the results of the survey with analysis based on interviews with 45 RFID technology vendors in North America and Europe.

"There were divergent views between vendors and systems integrators on the need for end-user training," says Nagarajan. "Most vendors were of the opinion that a trained end user was a key component for a successful implementation, but some integrators felt that know-how was something that they could teach end users throughout an implementation."

The study also showed that end users consider the vast majority of available RFID education options to be too vendor-driven and lacking in comprehensive technology training, Nagarajan says. Fifty-two percent of respondents said the greatest impact a well-trained staff can have on an RFID implementation is to lower the cost of deployment, followed by enabling improvements in efficiencies (45 percent), customer service (37 percent) and ROI (33 percent).

End users not under pressure from a mandate deadline are more likely to take an integrated approach to RFID technology, the study found. When asked what percentage of their organization is using or intends to use RFID on a slap/tag-and-ship basis, as opposed to implementing RFID into other business processes to improve efficiency, 70 percent of respondents in the banking and finance industry said they are integrating RFID with business processes. Only 44 percent of those in the consumer goods industry, meanwhile, said they are integrating or plan to integrate.

The study also showed that end users have a low level of expertise about RFID technology, with 65.9 percent of respondents saying they are still learning about the technology, 26.3 percent indicating an intermediate understanding and 2.1 percent citing expertise. The remaining 5.7 percent said they are using the technology but do not fully understand it.

The study revealed that for initial information on RFID, respondents turn to the Internet more than to any other source, including trade publications, vendors, conferences and industry associations. It also noted that when seeking RFID education and training, they look to the Internet as often as they do to conferences and seminars.

Among the study's conclusions was a concern that the popularity of the Internet for RFID information could lead to the spread of misinformation. "Numerous vendors and channel members have expressed concern regarding the credibility of information available on the Internet. Apprehension about potential end users being misled on the capabilities and benefits of the technology exists, especially since much of the information on the Internet is unverified," the report says.

CompTIA is currently working with some 20 organizations, including RFID Journal LLC, the publisher of RFID Journal magazine and its Web site, to develop vendor-neutral professional certification tests validating a technician's knowledge and skills in the areas of installation, maintenance, repair and upkeep of RFID hardware and software. The CompTIA RFID+ certification is expected to be available later this year, or early in 2006.

The full report is available now from Frost & Sullivan. Contact Tori Foster for pricing information.
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