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The Year Ahead: Reasons for Optimism

Out of crisis will come renewal, as companies transform themselves with the help of RFID and other technologies.
By Mark Roberti
That's why I am also optimistic for the near- and long-term future of radio frequency identification. RFID and other technologies can help companies achieve such goals, by enabling them to better measure what they do, as well as monitor waste, manage assets and tools, reduce costs and improve processes. Investments might be smaller than in previous years, but they will be more focused on delivering real results.

VDC Research Group recently forecast that sales of RFID hardware, software and services will grow by approximately 9 percent from 2008 levels. Some reports have portrayed this as a huge negative in light of the fact that the RFID market had previously grown by 30 percent a year. However, there are many industries—automotive, financial, retail and others—that would be ecstatic at a 10 percent growth in the current, stagnant economy. The fact that companies would invest $4 billion in RFID during these tough economic times is a sign that many firms understand the value of the technology.

I do think we might see the growth ramp back up toward the end of this year, as more companies realize they need to reduce costs and streamline processes in order to stay viable and position themselves for the future. It's interesting that although Sam's Club has announced plans to revisit timelines for tracking sellable units with RFID (see Sam's Club Provides Clarity on EPC RFID Plans, Sam's Club Reduces Tagging Fee and What the Sam's Club Announcement Means), the retailer has indicated it will roll out pallet-tracking applications to all of its stores in 2010, and seems on track for item-level applications in 2011. In other words, Sam's is moving forward, not sitting still. It's taking a bold step to transfer the customer experience by automating checkout and creating smarter retail.

Last week, we held our RFID in Health Care conference in Las Vegas. At the event, a number of end users discussed how they are employing RFID to improve their operations. These companies and organizations are building smarter hospitals. And in April, we will hold our big annual conference and exhibition, RFID Journal LIVE!, at which dozens of end users in a wide range of industries will explain how they are building smarter factories, supply chains, government agencies, data centers and much more.

As Barack Obama said during his acceptance speech, our problems "will not be met easily, or in a short span of time." And he's right—we can not build a smarter world overnight, and it can't be done without hard work and the courage to try new things. But I believe we will rise to the occasion and transform our companies—and in doing so, we will emerge from this crisis smarter, and with a stronger global economy.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.

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