Debunking Reports of RFID’s Death

By Mark Roberti

The energy last week at RFID Journal LIVE! 2009 showed there is still a great deal of interest in all types of RFID technologies.


Given some of the negative news this year related to the use of radio frequency identification, as well as the decline in capital spending by most businesses, some had predicted the industry might have suffered a devastating blow from which it could not recover. I doubt anyone who attended last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! event in Orlando, Fla., would reach that conclusion today.

Our seventh annual conference and exhibition attracted 2,400 people, which was down a bit from last year’s total of a little more than 3,000. But many people, including exhibitors, feared attendance would be a lot lower, given that many trade shows have been down 50 percent or more due to the challenging economic conditions. They were pleased to see the aisles filled, but they were absolutely thrilled as they engaged in conversations with attendees. Most end users at the event were focused on specific projects with budgets and timelines. They are investing in RFID technology.

Last week, I said I thought RFID had crossed the chasm (see RFID Crosses the Chasm), and LIVE! 2009 confirmed that to be true. Those who attended this year were not visionaries dreaming about how RFID would one day transform the global supply chain. They were businesspeople from a wide range of industries and countries, seeking solutions to common business problems—lost and misplaced assets, inventory inaccuracy, shipping and receiving problems, and so forth.

I spoke to several end users during the free consultations we offered at the event. All had a solid understanding of RFID, and knew it could help them. They sought insights regarding which solution would be best, and wanted to know which vendors they should talk to.

Most applications being considered by attendees were closed-loop. That’s not surprising. Many companies have issues stretching across the supply chain, but it makes sense to tackle issues within their own control. They also seek solutions that can deliver a fast return on investment. Still, these early deployments will lead to additional projects down the road. At a private lunch hosted by ADT, one gentleman told me, “I got all the information I need to move ahead with my project, but I got five or six other ideas of how RFID could really help us.”

The attendees with whom I spoke impressed with the quality of the RFID products being exhibited. Hardware and software products are getting less expensive and easier to deploy. Motorola‘s new reader is a case in point—it’s half the size and cost of its predecessor, but also has some great new features, such as built-in indicator lights and power-over-Ethernet, so you don’t have to run power cables to every location in which you want to place a reader.

ODIN Technologies, winner of our second Best in Show award at this year’s RFID Journal Awards ceremony (see Voegele, Vail, FOCUS and ODIN Technologies Win RFID Journal Awards), introduced a very cool self-contained, mobile RFID portal that can be installed in any ISO-standard shipping container in less than a minute. The unit comes with magnets enabling it to be popped into place, and also offers Wi-Fi, cellular and satellite communications capabilities to transmit the RFID data it captures.

In some ways, I think this event was critical to the RFID industry’s continued growth. The business that exhibitors get from attendees will enable them to continue investing in new products and services; without that continued innovation, the industry would stagnate. Next year, I predict that we’ll see even more attendees ready to invest, and I’m sure we’ll also see exhibitors with new, innovative products.

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.