Business Goes On

By Mark Roberti

Despite the media's relentless coverage of the economic downturn, a lot of business is still being conducted, and companies are evolving to survive.

Back in 1988, when I was young—or, at least, younger—a friend of mine who was a travel journalist invited me on a unique trip. Along with a local photographer, we planned to drive down the Pan-Philippine Highway, from the capital of Manila to Davao, on the southern island of Mindanao. At the time, there was a Communist insurgency in the country, as well as a Muslim insurgency to the south. In fact, just a few weeks before we were to depart, a Newsweek reporter traveling with the rebels had witnessed a firefight.

I was working in Hong Kong at the time, and the local newspapers gave the impression that the Philippines was a war-torn country. But nothing could be further from the truth—the trip was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The Philippines is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, and the people are warm and friendly. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with smiles and small talk. We drove more than 1,500 miles, and though we did meet gun-toting rebels, they posed for photos and bought us Cokes at a small stand made of straw, along the highway on the island of Samar. And we also met a nun who had been kidnapped and released a few days earlier in Mindanao. Other than that, we didn't see nearly as much strife as I had anticipated.

When I came back, I wrote an article entitled "Where's the War?" I pointed out that the media makes things sound worse than they really are, because a firefight is news, whereas people going about their normal routine is not. But the attention on the war had an unfortunate economic impact: Fewer people traveled to the Philippines for tourism, and foreign companies declined to invest.

The same phenomenon is now making the global economic situation worse. The media reports about each bank that runs into trouble, but says nothing about those that do well, or that lend to people who pay their mortgages (92 percent of homeowners make their monthly payments). The media also reports that construction of new housing is way down, but rarely mentions that more than 5 million homes are anticipated to be bought and sold this year in the United States. And we hear that retail sales are off, but no one mentions that sales are expected to total more than $3 trillion this year in the United States alone.

My point is that a lot of business is still being conducted. And a lot of companies understand that they need to keep evolving in order to survive this difficult period, and prosper when the economy improves. There are many companies that see RFID as a powerful technology that can reduce inefficiencies, streamline processes and enhance long-term competitiveness.

How do I know this? Because people continue to read about radio frequency identification. We use Web Trends to analyze our Web site logs. This popular software tool indicates that we had 429,447 visits to the RFID Journal site last month, and that we served up 1,959,455 Web pages. That's up from 404,495 visits and 1,891,431 served pages in January. If companies were uninterested in investing in RFID, we'd expect to see a huge fall-off in traffic. However, businesses continue to subscribe—in fact, we've observed an increase in the number of people selecting the three-year subscription option—and to register in encouraging numbers for our events.

RFID is not the only technology that companies are considering, nor is investing in new technology the only strategy for cutting costs. But every firm with more than $20 million in annual revenue can benefit from using RFID. Clearly, many firms understand this and are investigating in the technology to help their business.

You might get the impression, from reading newspapers or tuning in to your favorite 24-hour cable news channel, that all companies are hunkering down, waiting for the current economic storm to pass—but that's because investments in new technology are not as exciting as the public flogging of Wall Street villains. Still, I guarantee you this: When we come out of this recession, you will see some companies exceeding earnings expectations, and their CEOs will say, "We invested in new technologies during the downturn, so we're able to increase sales without also increasing our cost structure."

And if there isn't some major catastrophe somewhere in the world at the time, the mainstream news might actually report that fact.

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 or click here.