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What's in Store for 2011

This year will be marked by continued adoption of RFID in retail apparel, health care, manufacturing and other sectors.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 03, 2011In my previous column, I described 2010 as the year in which organizations really began to deploy radio frequency identification systems that deliver value (see The Year of Value-Driven RFID Deployments). My prediction for 2011: more of the same.

It's clear that the global economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession. Some companies have managed to return to profitability through cost-cutting methods, and they probably have little fat left to trim internally. That means they'll consider new technologies to achieve further efficiencies, or to grow revenue.

I expect 2011 to be a year of steady growth for the RFID industry, as end users across all sectors deploy various types of RFID technologies. The most growth will likely occur in apparel retail and health care, because those industries are where the return on investment is most obvious.

Several apparel retailers have rolled out RFID systems to better manage inventory and improve on-shelf availability. Wal-Mart Stores is one of the few that has spoken to the press about its deployment (see Wal-Mart Relaunches EPC RFID Effort, Starting With Men's Jeans and Basics). Now, many other apparel retailers are examining what RFID can do for their bottom line.

It's difficult to predict how quickly adoption in the apparel retail sector will ramp up. It depends on the number of retailers that go public with their deployment plans. Followers of Geoffrey Moore know that there needs to be a critical mass of early adopters before the entire industry adopts a new technology (see The (RFID) World According to Moore, Moore Has Spoken—Were RFID Vendors Listening?, Geoffrey Moore Discusses RFID Adoption Strategies and More Musings on Moore). I think such a development is still two years away at this point, but given the compelling ROI involved, the technology's adoption could accelerate rapidly this year, and it could also spread to sporting goods, shoes and related retail categories.

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