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Launch and Learn, Say Early Adopters

At EPCglobal US's third annual user conference, representatives from Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and Dow exhorted attendees to innovate and share.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 19, 2006During the keynote panel at EPCglobal US's third annual user conference, representatives from Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Dow Chemical Co. offered these words of guidance: RFID end users need to start taking risks, look for ways to innovate and publicize what they learn.

"I say it will not be one company or country, or one industry, that will lead," Wal-Mart vice president Carolyn Walton told the crowd of end users and technology providers gathered in the Los Angeles Convention Center. "It will be a community effort. And you, in this room, are the leaders and the ones who are going to make this happen. You have rolled up your sleeves and road-tested EPC in your company."

Dick Cantwell, P&G's vice president and chairman of the EPCglobal board of governors, said his company saw a 20 percent uplift in sales in its first RFID-enabled new-product launch this year. He compared the state of the RFID and EPC industry today to that of the movie industry 100 years ago: "There's no better place for this conference than L.A. Hollywood wasn't always bright lights and big films. Movies began as a germ of an idea, and creators of cameras and projection [technology] shared a common vision. Today, I see that same vision in the EPCglobal community. Every new pilot and RFID implementation makes that vision closer to a reality."

But for all of the cheerleading that peppered Walton's and Cantwell's remarks, some organization members chided RFID end users keeping quiet about their deployments, ostensibly to protect competitive advantage.

"Success can't be achieved in isolation," said Walton. Don't keep your learnings a secret. There is no competitive advantage to this—it's short-sighted and causes delay in deployment." She reminded attendees how much they’ve benefited from bar codes, adding, "What if the first-generation of [bar-code] innovators kept all their findings to themselves?"

Miguel Lopera, president and CEO of EPCglobal's parent organization, GS1, asked attendees to publish the results of their EPC deployments, calling it the "greatest contribution" they could make to EPCglobal. In exchange, he said, EPCglobal is working to establish RFID technology standards that will drive down the costs of deployment.

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