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RFID Is Not a Dirty Word

Salespeople who avoid talking about RFID are hurting themselves now—and the industry in the long term.
By Mark Roberti
Here's what I think the industry needs to do, going forward:

Stop overselling the technology: I know companies are eager—and, in some cases, desperate for sales—but the credibility of each company, and of the industry as a whole, is tarnished when a vendor claims its technology can do more than it is capable of doing.

Address the issue of cost: Yes, it's cheaper to put a bar code on an object than an RFID tag, but collecting data with bar codes can be more expensive than using RFID. The industry needs to hammer home this point to the world at large.

Address the issue of reliability: Bar codes are not 100 percent reliable, and RFID doesn't need to be either, in order to deliver value. The industry needs to constantly repeat that RFID is often more reliable than bar codes. In a demonstration we did at this year's RFID in Fashion event, a person scanning items with an RFID interrogator missed only one tag, while an individual scanning bar codes missed six (view the video).

Talk up the technology in general, and don't talk down RFID systems you don't sell: If you sell passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID systems, don't dwell on the limits of high-frequency (HF) systems, and vice versa. If you sell a Wi-Fi-based system, don't constantly discuss the limitations of other active RFID systems. Talk about the benefits of real-time location data, and when a customer is convinced he can benefit from such a system, then you can explain why your company's technology is the better choice. (But don't oversell!)

RFID is a powerful technology, and almost all businesses in all industries could benefit from using it in one way or another. It takes time for any technology to mature to the point where it is reliable, cost-effective and easy to deploy. Once it has reached that stage—and I believe RFID is there, or very close to being there—there is a lag between public perception and reality. One salesperson told me he used to avoid talking about RFID, but that it's no longer an issue. "When a customer is clearly negative on RFID," he said, "we now have half a dozen successful case studies we can point to in his industry, to convince him he's wrong."

That's a sign of progress.

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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