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The Decade Ahead
Here are my predictions for how RFID will be adopted over the next 10 years.
More industry-specific solutions will make adoption easier. RFID systems will not only get better, they will also address industry needs more effectively. In the early days of RFID, vendors too often wanted to sell tags and interrogators, letting end users figure out what to do with them. Over the past few years, however, some companies have developed solutions for specific industries, or partnered to create them. This trend will accelerate, as the RFID vendor community's experience with early adopters enables them to create solutions that address industry-specific issues.
Adoption will occur in fits and starts. Everyone thought Wal-Mart's RFID mandate would propel adoption. That didn't happen, yet RFID continues to gain ground in all industries. In some sectors, industry regulations—drug pedigrees in pharmaceuticals, for instance—will drive adoption, but mostly it will be the successful use of RFID by one company that will encourage others to use the technology. RFID Journal's news stories and case studies of successful deployments in myriad industries are seeds that will flower, produce more seeds and lead to increased adoption.
By 2020, almost every company with more than $500 million in revenue will be using RFID. Given the number of ways in which RFID can be utilized, it's difficult to imagine that businesses will not find ways to use the technology to improve asset utilization, track tools, manage inventory and more. There are many success stories available today, and that number increases each year. Some firms will use RFID to solve a single business problem, but many others will benefit from using the technology in a variety of ways.
By the end of the decade, all major apparel retailers will be employing radio frequency identification at the item level. All or most hospitals will be using RFID to track high-value equipment. Most major manufacturers will be utilizing the technology to track parts, materials, containers, tools or other assets. And companies across other industries will be using RFID to track mobile assets.
By the end of the decade, forward-thinking companies will be deploying RFID enterprise-wide. My vision has always been for businesses to deploy RFID as an enterprise-wide infrastructure that will provide a steady stream of data regarding the location and state of assets, inventory, materials, parts, tools and so forth. Getting there will take time, because RFID systems are complex, but by the end of the decade, forward-thinking companies will have, or be close to having, a robust infrastructure that can be used to dramatically reduce operational costs. They'll also be analyzing the collected data in new ways to provide additional benefits. This is already happening. Hospitals, for instance, are utilizing RFID information to predict the use of particular equipment and reduce their rental of same during slow periods without risking patient safety.
The past decade has been the most fulfilling in my 25-year journalism career. I have had a unique view of an industry evolving. I have seen vendors develop innovative products. I have spent a lot of time with end users who have developed new ways to use RFID, and with researchers who have either documented RFID's impact on business or conducted research that has moved the technology forward. I anticipate that the next 10 years will be even more exciting as companies begin to capitalize on all of the things RFID can do.
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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