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A Decade of Progress

An RFID evangelist, cheerleader and agent provocateur shares his views on the industry's failures and successes during the past 10 years.
By John Greaves
Mar 15, 2010Why is radio frequency identification perceived to be deploying at a slower pace than some in the industry thought would occur?

Actually, the whole sector of RFID deliverables is doing very well, considering the economic recession and a downturn in demand.

Despite a lack of funding, the industry has remained on track with the pace of innovation and, in fact, there is more change in RFID, and a lot more hope, than ever reached Washington, D.C.

However, so long as the analyst sector, the delivery sector and end users are confused by the term RFID being considered to reflect the pace of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) technology, then the industry has a perception, and reporting, problem. There is no doubt that the pervasive use of UHF has been helped by the ISO 18000-6C standard and, in Asia, the ISO 18000-6B standard, and from this success, there has been a wider range of adopting industries, not all of which take the Electronic Product Code (EPC) umbrella as a mandatory implementation model for UHF.

RFID Journal takes great pains to illustrate and typify all forms of RFID implementation, and is a valuable thermometer for the pace of adoption and change. There is one service that we must try to obtain: that of reporting on "fit for purpose" adoption, rather than "fit for press release" implementations. "Fit for press release" RFID implementations rarely provide any reference material for industry advancement and ease of adoption. I shudder each time I read such press releases, knowing that the claims made, or the adoption portrayed, could—and should—be accomplished with a different frequency, protocol or technology. It is sad that in a small survey of three past issues of the most-read RFID material, one can find that these announcements led nowhere, and caused only obfuscation and confusion in the buying community, as well as failing to continue into long-term use.

There are other challenges to explain why the adoption curve has not matched predictive press.

The first, and foremost, reason is that the people who drew pictures of a rosy and straightforward deployment were largely those who needed such a picture in order to induce investors.

Secondly, the GTAG (Global Tag) standardization initiative of the Uniform Code Council (UCC) and the European Article Numbering Association (EAN) published an internal paper in June 2000 that identified that the key component of successful RFID at any frequency, in any application, would be the need for people to make it, integrate it and—probably most important of all—screw the apparatus to the wall.

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