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RFID Gains Momentum

While there haven't been any new mandates, it's clear that companies are accelerating RFID projects and, in some cases, committing to deploying RFID.
By Mark Roberti
Mar 13, 2006Last May, I wrote an opinion piece pointing out that no new RFID mandates had been issued in seven months, and that several vendors had pulled out of the radio frequency identification market. I questioned, as a result, whether the RFID movement was running out of steam (see Is RFID Losing Momentum?). In the end, I decided it wasn't, and that a lot of hard work was going on behind the scenes to understand how and where RFID could deliver benefits.

All evidence suggests RFID adoption is picking up. We're seeing a rise in visitors to our Web site, as well as subscriptions and registrations for RFID Journal LIVE! 2006, our 4th annual conference and exhibition (to be held May 1-3, Las Vegas). And conversations I've had in the past few months reveal not only that work is still ongoing, but also that end users are intensifying their efforts. In the past few weeks, two leading end users, Dick Cantwell of Gillette and Alan Estevez of the U.S. Department of Defense—both of whom will be sharing their insights and early lessons learned at RFID Journal LIVE! —told me about their commitment to roll out the technology.

The DOD recently put out a request for proposal to vendors who can supply interrogators for some 17 Defense Logistics Agency facilities. During my chat with Alan about this and other developments, he mentioned that word of the DOD's successful projects are spreading, and that folks in the different branches want to know what the other branches did, how they did it and what they can learn from the pilots. That's a very good sign, because it means projects are taking on their own momentum within the DOD.

Dick Cantwell was the head of Gillette's RFID efforts for several years. He served as the head of the Board of Governors for the Auto-ID Center, which developed the original concept for the Electronic Product Code. Gillette and Procter & Gamble founded the center, along with the Uniform Code Council (now GS1). Gillette has been among the most aggressive companies in exploring the benefits of EPC. I think it's fair to say that P&G was a bit more conservative over the past couple of years. (It didn't, for instance, place an order for 500 million tags, as Gillette did in 2003.)

When Procter & Gamble purchased Gillette, P&G could have used the massive integration of the two operations as an excuse to slow down its own RFID efforts and those of its new Gillette division. Instead, P&G elevated Cantwell from head of Gillette's RFID project to the head of RFID for all of P&G. What's more, it's stepping up its RFID implementation work under its EPC Advantaged Strategy (see P&G Adopts EPC Advantaged Strategy).

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