Apr 17, 2017One of my frustrations throughout the years has been that it has sometimes been a challenge to connect those who seek a radio frequency identification solution to a business problem with the vendor selling that solution. I was once standing in the exhibit hall at our RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, and an attendee walked up to me and asked if there was anyone who sold low-frequency (LF) RFID tags. We happened to be standing right in front of the booth of a company that offered LF systems at the time.
We've done several things to try to help attendees find the products they are looking for at our events. We created an app that allows attendees to search for exhibitors by product—passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) handheld readers, for example—or by industry solutions. We introduced a product showcase, which has a photo and description of products and the booth number of the company offering them. And we created an Ask the Experts booth, sponsored this year by the RFID Professional Institute, where attendees can drop in and ask an independent expert for advice.
We also introduced a concierge program. When attendees register, they can request a consultation with an editor to seek advice about their project. I have been doing these for the past couple of weeks, and while they are time-consuming, they are something I enjoy doing because it gives me an opportunity to connect with attendees personally.
One piece of advice I give most of the attendees I speak with is this: Take photographs of the items, cartons, containers or whatever else it is that you want to track. Take photos of the environment and, if possible, take videos of staff members handling these items.
Why? The photos of the items will immediately help a tag provider figure out which two or three tags are likely to work on the items you are trying to tag. In some cases, a simple print-and-apply label will work. In other scenarios, a special on-metal label of a particular size will be required, and that tag might need to survive in, say, a 400-degree Celsius (752-degree Fahrenheit) oven for eight minutes. There are tags that can meet these needs and a photo can help you find the right one quickly.
Images of the environment help, too. From a photo, a reader company can suggest whether a standard portal reader would work for your deployment, or whether an overhead reader system might better suit your needs. They will be able to suggest how many readers you might need to cover the area, and that will help you determine the cost.
Video footage of employees doing their job is also helpful, because a good RFID vendor or systems integrator, after watching the video, should be able to determine whether RFID can eliminate bar-code scanning, reduce search times or deliver other efficiencies.
I also encourage attendees to think about what their goals are. It's surprising to me, but there are attendees who come to the event serious about investing in the technology, you who lack a clear idea of what they want it to do. One person with whom I spoke was told that assets such as laptops need to RFID-tagged. I asked if the problem was theft. She said no. Are items ending up missing? No. Do you want to track which laptops are leaving and entering the building for security purposes? No. Finally, she said, "I think I need to go back to management and ask them what, exactly, we are trying to achieve.
Yes, indeed. RFID can solve a lot of problems. It can also be used as infrastructure to track a wide variety of objects and create enterprise-wide efficiencies. But clear goals and a little preparation up front will help attendees come away from LIVE! with insights into what they need to do to create an efficient RFID system, and which vendors they need to work with.
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.