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Sam's Club, P&G Discuss Sharing RFID's Value

At this week's RFID Journal LIVE! 2008 conference, more than 3,300 attendees came to learn how to put RFID to work.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor and Claire Swedberg
"We are currently testing the beta version of the software with some private customers," says Steve Sloan, lead product manager for Microsoft's Connected Systems division, "and then we will conduct public beta testing, and we are aiming to have the software generally available by the fourth quarter of this year."

Ray Martino
On the hardware side, Ray Martino, Motorola's chief technology officer, told attendees he sees mobility as the future of RFID. The growth in the mobile market, he explained, will help fuel RFID growth.

The marker for this growth, Martino said, is the cell phone market, in which 1.2 billion mobile phones were sold worldwide last year. Given their built-in processing power, he added, today's cell phones rival the functionality of computers. Consumers can expect their phones to be the RFID interrogators of the future—reducing waits at retail locations, as well as linking them to stores in other ways, such as downloading coupons for price reductions at the point of sale.

Anush Kumar
Stores will soon have other smart mobile devices as well, Martino said, including RFID-enabled mirrors, tables and kiosks, to be used with mobile phones to provide data about products. "RFID is no longer a matter of a portal in the backroom. You can expect to see RFID in the front of the store," he said, and to "change the shopping experience."

Martino advised that RFID users consider not only technology they think will be a "good fit" for their application, but also how the technology can be expected to perform in the future. "The best fit may not always be the best choice," he noted. "How many vendors are driving it, for example? Where is the world going with that technology?"

RFID has crossed the chasm, Martino said, and the question of "Will it work? or When will it work?" no longer needs to be asked. "It works," he stated.

Indeed, this was the sentiment shared by many speakers and attendees at the conference. Whereas past discussions revolved around how to make RFID technology work to meet customer needs, those at the event indicated, current discussions are about extracting business value from those applications.

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