CEOs Get the Message about EPC

By Bob Violino

The Auto-ID Center's CEO Summit last week attracted some 150 top executives from major corporations.

July 21, 2003 - Adopting Electronic Product Code technology is going to require a significant investment in readers, tags, software and integration services, so companies will first need to get support from top management. For that reason, the Auto-ID Center took its message directly to CEOs last week.

Kevin Ashton

The center held an invitation-only "CEO Summit" in Boston, Mass., to explain the benefits of the technology to senior executives. More than 150 CEOs, CIOs and senior VPs heard speeches from George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research; Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, Kerry Clark, vice chairman of Procter & Gamble, Alex d'Arbeloff, chairman of MIT and others.

"It was an outrageously successful event," says Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center. "The commitment and enthusiasm and support that these senior-level executives either came with or left with, depending on where they're at, was incredible."

The event gave CEOs and other senior executives the opportunity to discuss, during informal breaks, plans, partnerships and opportunities and work that still needs to be done. The center would not release names of those who attended, but Ashton said some of the companies represented were among those that the center has not had contact with previously. The leaders of these companies got a chance, for the first time, to learn where sponsors of the center stand.

"One of the most important benefits of this gathering for the CEOs was having the opportunity to look each other in the eye and gauge one another's commitment to adoption and timings," says Ashton. "It's one thing to read in the RFID Journal that everyone is doing it. It's a much more powerful thing to meet a CEO and have them tell you that they are doing it."

The speakers covered a variety of topics. Forrester's Colony talked about his company's vision for the extended Internet, which is similar to the center's vision of an "Internet of Things." D'Arbeloff, the co-founder of Teradyne, a leading testing equipment maker, spoke about how CEOs can drive innovation in their companies. And Scott McNealy told the audience how EPC technology fits in with the past and future of computing.

Several Auto-ID Center sponsors spoke about their plans and how aggressively they were moving forward. Some vendors demonstrated their products, so the CEOs could see that EPC technology works. And Elliot Maxwell, chairman of the center's advisory council, spoke about policy considerations.

"We're now two months away from the official launch of version one of the EPC technology, and this gave us a chance to do a temperature check," says Ashton. "All of us are feeling very positive after the response to this event."

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