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Will Atlas Shrug?

Businesses can't expect a handful of companies to do all of the work to develop industry standards for RFID.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 27, 2008In Ayn Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, the "men of the mind" refuse to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world, as they rebel against an incipient collectivist dictatorship. I was thinking about this at an event Hewlett-Packard hosted last week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, while listening to an excellent presentation by Loïc Feinbier, head of ThyssenKrupp Steel's Competence Center RFID.

Feinbier, who is also speaking at our RFID Journal LIVE! Europe 2008 event in Prague next week, explained how his company needed to track slabs of raw steel that would be made into coils. The company overcame the challenges involved in getting the RFID tags to read on metal—and even to stick to the metal—and developed a business case built on obtaining multiple benefits, not just one.

But what impressed me most was the fact that Feinbier sees RFID based on Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards as a platform for deploying additional applications. ThyssenKrupp approached customers, and even competitors, about working on standards for the entire steel industry. It's not yet clear whether any of these firms will join ThyssenKrupp, but thought leaders in other industries have met with resistance as well.

Best Buy, for instance, didn't get much response when it sought to use EPC RFID in the consumer electronics space. Dow Chemical received little reaction from others in the chemical industry. And only a handful of retailers—Wal-Mart, Target and Metro—stepped up to develop standards in the retail/consumer packaged goods sector.

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