Enterprise Deployments Gain Momentum

2012 is unlikely to be a year of great economic growth, but more companies are expected to deploy RFID as architecture that delivers benefits across an enterprise.
Published: January 23, 2012

In November 2008, I wrote a column discussing the financial meltdown, in which I said, “When the going gets tough, the tough become smarter and leaner, by investing in a corporate infrastructure that can deliver lasting benefits” (see When the Going Gets Tough…). This year, RFID Journal celebrates its first 10 years in business, and I’m pleased that the vision I’ve long had of companies leveraging radio frequency identification across the enterprise to achieve many benefits is starting to become a reality.

Airbus remains, in my view, the leader in deploying RFID as an enterprise-wide infrastructure, to better manage all aspects of its business (see Airbus Leads the Way, Learning From Airbus and Airbus’ Grand Plans for RFID). The firm has deployed both passive and active RFID systems to manage tools, jigs, parts shipments and much more, and it continues to build out the infrastructure in a methodical way. The company has benchmarked the benefits of specific applications at one facility, and uses that to enable others to determine the potential benefits before moving forward. This has lead to steady, consistent progress.

Last week, we reported that Cisco Systems has deployed an enterprise-wide RFID system to track and manage data-center assets and other IT equipment (see Cisco Tracks IT Assets Via RFID). It is one of the largest such deployments to date, and will likely encourage other companies with many IT assets to employ RFID to better manage those items.

I know that other companies are taking an enterprise-wide approach as well. Though Wal-Mart has not been very public during the past two years, it is my understanding that the retailer has made progress in integrating its RFID data for tracking men’s jeans and basics with its back-end IT system (see Wal-Mart Relaunches EPC RFID Effort, Starting With Men’s Jeans and Basics, Why Isn’t Wal-Mart Killing the Tags? and Putting Wal-Mart’s Apparel Tagging in Context). Wal-Mart doesn’t merely collect information and use it to replenish shelves in a standalone application—RFID is woven into the fabric of its IT systems.

JCPenney Co. is another retailer that has largely remained mum about its efforts, though it is known that the company is tracking all jeans, bras and shoes within its 1,100 stores, putting it ahead of most other retailers (see U.S. Apparel Retailers Drive RFID Adoption and RFID Adoption Will Spread Across Retail Sectors). I wish companies would be more open about their use of the technology and the benefits they achieve—but even if they are not, it’s still exciting to know that they and others are now deploying RFID on an enterprise-wide scale.

I don’t expect that RFID will see explosive growth in 2012, but I have heard that some of the early adopters that began looking at the technology seriously three or four years ago will be undergoing significant rollouts this year. That investment will pay off in the long term, by affording them greater visibility into many aspects of their operations, thereby enabling them to become more efficient, flexible and consistent in their execution. And that’s what RFID has always been all about.

Cisco Systems will discuss its enterprise-wide approach to IT asset tracking at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012, being held on Apr. 3-5, in Orlando, Fla. I hope others will come forward and tell their story as well.

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.