Does the RFID Industry Need to Provide More Education?

Many companies have an outdated view of radio frequency identification technology, but you can't educate people who don't want to learn.
Published: November 5, 2019

Last week, I was speaking to the CEO of a startup that is planning to launch a new radio frequency identification solution. The CEO asked me if RFID adoption is accelerating or declining. I said that it is moving forward in different industries at different speeds, but that in general, more and more businesses are adopting the technology—though it’s not happening quickly.

“Why isn’t it happening faster?” he asked, “Is it because of a lack of education about how powerful this technology is?” I explained that the vast majority of companies have an outdated view of RFID. They know that Walmart backed off its RFID efforts, and they assume it’s because the technology didn’t work—which isn’t true. They know there were problems reading tags around water and metal. They think it’s expensive. And their knowledge is five to seven years out of date.

“So, we need to do more educating,” the CEO said.

Well, yes. We can always do more educating. That’s what RFID Journal was created for, after all, but you can’t educate people who don’t want to be educated. It’s taken me a long time to understand that, but the truth is that many people resist change. They don’t want to deploy RFID, so they don’t want to learn about it. Trying to sell to this group, which represents the majority of companies right now, is fruitless.

So, what’s the answer? How should this startup and other companies sell RFID solutions? The answer is to focus on those companies that understand RFID and believe it to be a solution to their business issues. Each time a new firm adopts RFID, others in its industry will hear about this and will want to start exploring RFID as well so they can achieve the same benefits. If one or two of those businesses adopt the technology, others in the industry will become interested, and so on.

This is how solution providers start to build critical mass. As more and more companies adopt RFID within a given industry, those who hate change are forced to change. Eventually, the technology reaches a tipping point, and everyone has to adopt it.

Unfortunately, many RFID companies choose to focus on the large number of firms that don’t want to change the way they do things. These solution providers are rightly proud of their solution and believe it’s so good that if they could just talk to a decision maker at a company, they could convince him or her to buy RFID. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way, and this is one reason why RFID has not been adopted more quickly.

I gave the CEO my best advice. He seemed to get it, but I have given similar advice to many other RFID solution providers throughout the years, and many of them claimed to get it as well, then ended up following the same fruitless pass of focusing on the many companies not yet ready to adopt a new technology, rather than the few who are. I hope this particular CEO truly does get it, because one solution provider with the right product and the right marketing approach could transform the entire RFID industry.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.