Be Wary of Vendor Claims

By Mark Roberti

Market research firm Venture Development Corp. says vendors are contributing to confusion among end users by providing misleading information. The situation is likely to get worse as EPC Gen 2 products start hitting the market.

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Venture Development Corp., a technology market research and consulting firm based in Natick, Mass., has released a paper that says vendors are contributing to confusion among end users by providing misleading information. The situation is likely to get worse as products based on the second generation Electronic Product Code standard hit the market. End users need to be wary of what they hear and read.

VDC’s paper says vendors have been working vigorously to develop Gen 2 products, and that “many of these solutions are tightly defined technical marvels.” However, it also notes that some vendors have engaged in “some of the most aggressive and counter-productive marketing communications we have seen since April 2000.”

Vendors are trying to position themselves as market leaders, particularly with regard to Gen 2 technology, a market that is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. The aim is to convince end users to buy their products because they have been proven as best—otherwise, why would said vendor be the market leader? But VDC says vendors sometimes cross the line in using market research studies, including its own, to bolster their claims of leadership. (Read the complete VDC paper here.)

Many publications print press releases as they receive them (something RFID Journal has never done), so competing claims of leadership get published and end users wind up unsure of whom to believe. This creates something of a credibility gap in the market. The gap is made worse by vendors making claims about the performance of their products that can’t be backed up.

Unfortunately, things will get worse over the next few months as Gen 2 products will hit the market. Some vendors will inevitably make claims about performance that can’t be backed up. Be wary of statements such as: “Our tags are eight times faster than EPC Gen 1 tags.” The Gen 2 protocol calls for a data transfer rate that is eight times faster than the Class 0 protocol, but that’s the theoretical rate. Some tags might be faster, some much slower.

Other claims to watch out for are around dense-reader mode, a new feature in the EPC protocol that allows many readers to work in the same area without interfering with one another. You might be told you can operate up to 50 readers within one square kilometer (0.39 square mile). Maybe, but don’t expect your Gen 2 reader to work properly if you have Gen 1 readers in the same area. The emissions from Gen 1 products, which don’t feature dense-reader mode, will prevent Gen 2 readers from doing their job.

VDC is calling on the vendor community to step up and validate published claims of technology performance, product certification, market share and so on, and to communicate clear messages that leave little room for misinterpretation. RFID Journal certainly backs VDC in this regard, but it’s also up to the end users to educate themselves so they can challenge vendors and either test products themselves or turn to third parties, such as the RFID Alliance Lab, for objective information.

In an emerging market, it’s not unusual to see hype and anti-hype, misinformation and even disinformation (particularly from companies that are either new or don’t have strong products). It’s also not unusual to see companies get burned by investing in products that don’t deliver. Until the market matures, it’s caveat emptor.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.