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Middle Easterners Imagine RFID's Power and Possibilities

At this week's RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East conference, attendees and speakers are discussing the technology's myriad applications, as well as its prospects for growth in the region.
By Rhea Wessel
Jun 16, 2009At RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East 2009, being held this week in Dubai, attendees from a variety of sectors and areas of interest are proving that the market for RFID in the Gulf has plenty of potential for opportunity and expansion. Rami Darwish, VP of sales and development at RFID solutions provider Tagstone, told attendees he predicted strong growth in the RFID market, thanks to a rise in intraregional investment of oil profits. Such investment, he indicated, was up to 25 percent, versus 15 percent in 2003.

"The idea of the power of RFID, and what we can do with the technology, is still in its infancy," Darwish stated, "in terms of how we take this great technology and implement it in our everyday business." The region's RFID market, however, is still fragmented, he noted, and filled with small "mom-and-pop" vendors offering RFID applications among many other products and services, without specializing in the technology.

Dubai Holding's Sabri Al Azazi
In a dynamic address that opened the two-day event, Sabri Hamed Al Azazi—a technology evangelist and the CIO of Dubai Holding, a diversified company owned by the ruler of that nation—mirrored the region's enthusiasm for RFID, telling attendees how the technology will change the way people live and socialize. Al Azazi described futuristic RFID applications, indicating radio frequency identification is moving from "science fiction to reality." He cited RFID-enabled robotic babysitters and cashiers, intelligent houses, smart toilets that collect information regarding a user's health, and RFID-tagged buses used during the Haj pilgrimage in Saudia Arabia.

Approximately 150 people registered for RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East, which is hosting 19 speakers from a variety of industries—including oil and gas, and aerospace—as well as exhibits from 15 companies active in the RFID industry. Attendees represent a variety of sectors and interests. Suad Al Shamsi, a software engineer at a data systems and solutions provider in Dubai, says one of her company's customers recently inquired about an RFID application for document tracking. Al Shamsi came to the event knowing little about radio frequency identification, but says she has discovered a wide variety of applications for RFID, and that "anything is possible" with the technology. Prior to attending the sessions, she notes, she had numerous misconceptions regarding RFID, though many of her concerns regarding security and privacy have been alleviated at the event.

Tagstone's Rami Darwish
Another attendee, Roddy Macdonald, says he came to learn about RFID's usage in the oil and gas sector. Macdonald, who works for Seascape Surveys, a Singapore-based company that conducts underwater surveys, says he could imagine that at some point, RFID will be used to track underwater assets that must be monitored frequently, such as pipelines or offshore oil rigs.

Speakers on the first day of the two-day event also included Carlo Nizam, head of value chain visibility at Airbus, who told attendees about the progress his company is making in rolling out RFID, and Wasim Raad, who oversees the RFID lab at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, in Saudi Arabia. Raad also serves as the VP for education in the Middle East RFID Association.

Muhannad Shaban, the sales director of the Middle East and Gulf states for AeroScout (an exhibitor at the conference), says many people at LIVE! Middle East are focused on and discussing best practices for RFID.

"The theme of the conference," Shaban states, "is creating good awareness around RFID technology in the Middle East as a whole."
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