Awards Entries Show RFID Is Maturing

By Mark Roberti

The submissions for the RFID Journal Awards in the end-user categories exemplify how the technology is being deployed in more sophisticated ways that add business value.

This is the fifth year of the RFID Journal Awards, and it has been fascinating to watch the industry's evolution through the prism of the awards submissions. In the first two or three years, the judges were nearly unanimous in picking winners, since there were only one or two sophisticated deployments leveraging the data that radio frequency identification enables companies to capture, while others were either pilots or relatively simple uses of RFID.

Last year, things began to change, and there was less unanimity among the judges as a result. There were more submissions, many of which were projects that could have won in early years. It became more difficult to choose only three finalists for each award.

That continues to be the case this year. Take, for example, the three finalists for Best RFID Implementation. Gerry Weber International isn't using RFID on just a few products, or just on cartons, or just in its warehouse. It has created a solution that integrates RFID tags into the product-care labels of all of its clothing, so items can be tracked from factories to multiple warehouses and on to 200 stores. The system is designed to both reduce theft and improve inventory management.

Steinmetz Diamonds, one of the world's largest diamond groups, purchases rough diamonds and processes them into finished polished stones ready for sale. The whole process involves many stages and requires high-value stones to be handled by many people at different locations. Using RFID to manage the process is enabling the company to have 24-7 track-and-trace inventory visibility, monitoring and control, to increase efficiencies in the processing of diamonds, while also improving security. Not bad.

And John Deere is taking an enterprise approach to deploying RFID, with a goal of achieving "asset visibility from end to end in the value chain." The project it submitted involves using RFID to provide visibility of work-in-process, finished goods inventory and, ultimately, channel inventory. "This project is for the benefit of both our factories," the submission explains, "and, in the longer run, our highly valued dealer channel."

These are ambitious projects. And there were many others. We had a record number of submissions for Most Innovative Use of RFID, and we introduced our new RFID Green award that will be given to the project that best utilizes radio frequency identification to benefit the environment (for the complete list of finalists, see Finalists Unveiled for the Fifth Annual RFID Journal Awards). It is a great thrill for me, nine years after launching RFID Journal and five years after creating the awards, to see the technology finally being understood and used in ways that significantly benefit companies.

I would like to thank our judges, who donate their time to read all of the submissions and choose the best from among them. I sometimes hear from people who disagree with their choices, but they do an outstanding job of picking the best projects without fear or favor. I don't think the awards would be as respected or valued if it were not for their objective efforts. You can find a list of the judges on the RFID Journal Awards Web site.

We will announce the winners on Apr. 14, 2011, at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011, to be held in Orlando, Fla., on Apr. 12-14. Those chosen will present their stories at the event so that attendees can learn from the best, and we will also feature the winners in the May-June issue of RFID Journal magazine.

I wish the finalists luck, and I hope those who didn't make the cut this time will resubmit again next year. You never know—2012 could be your year.

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, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.